THE WHITE CUBE

CERCLE D’ART DES TRAVAILLEURS DE PLANTATION CONGOLAISE (CATPC), A NETWORK OF ARTISTS IN THE CONGO, HAS BEEN USING ART TO PROPEL AND ADVOCATE THE CREATIVE USE OF LAND AMONG LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Lusanga International Research Centre for Art and Economic Inequality (LIRCAEI) is the name of a research project in Lusanga, a town 650-kilometers to the Southeast of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Originally, the area was known as ‘Leverville,’ for it was once a palm oil plantation that had been owned by a large international corporation, Unilever, since 1911. The growing of only one particular plant for an extended period of time caused the soil condition to deteriorate, turning the area into a degraded agricultural land.

The White Cube, Photo © Chirac Kawusu

The White Cube under construction at LIRCAEI, Photo © Thomas Nolf

LIRCAEI was born out of a collaboration between Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC), a network of artists in the Congo that has been using art to propel and advocate the creative use of land among local communities and the benefits of conservation on sustainable land use led by René Ngongo, a biologist and political and environmental activist who has been working with The Institute for Human Activities (IHA). With Renzo Martens as its founder, IHA puts its focus on the use of art to critique economic inequality. The project also has OMA’s David Gianotten overseeing the planning together with local architect, Arsene Ijambo who is the representative from the Association of the Architects of the Congo (SAC). The team collaborates with the local community in the development and revitalization of degraded land.

CATPC artist Cedrick Tamasala explaining how the chocolate sculptures finance the the cooperative’s ecological and inclusive post plantation, Photo © Thomas Nolf

Of all the lands in the project, White Cube is not only an art space but also the principle and pilot area used to promote the project and its concept to the general public. The project recently launched its official opening with an art exhibition by Congolese and other international artists who have been working closely with the local community with most of the works being created from local agricultural products such as a sculpture made of cocoa. All the exhibited works will be distributed through the expanding network of interested art dealers and buyers with the works being systematically managed and shown in exhibitions outside of the Congo. The generated income will be used to fund the project’s research that aims to find a new ecological model and economic structure for the development of environmental conditions and the quality of life of the people in the area.

CATPC artists carrying the chocolate sculptures to the kisendus hosting LIRCAEI’s inaugural exhibition, photo © Thomas Nolf

CATPC member Mulela Mabamba’s performance celebrating the repatriation of the White Cube in a traditional Bapende Mugangi, Photo ©Thomas Nolf

TEXT: WICHIT HORYINGSAWAD
www.lircaei.art

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