AFRICAN ARTISTS : Who were questioning their history and their relationship to the world.

THE first Lubumbashi Biennial assembled 15 artists on a $90,000 budget, supported by the french cultural center and a local industrialist.

For the second, Simon Njami an influential Cameroonian curator, served as artistic director, bolstering the events credibility.

A Congolese art historian based in Belgium, Toma Moteba Luntumbue, supervised two subsequent editions - still on a shoestring.

The year, the baton was passed to Sandrine Colard, a Congolese Belgian art historian at Rutgers University in New Jersey who did research for her doctoral thesis here, on Congolese colonial photography found in archives and family collections.

''It was too beautiful an opportunity to let pass,'' Ms. Colard said.

Among the biennial exhibitions, she installed a series of  colonial-era photographs of Lubumbashi families, recaptioned by present day residents, to commence on nuances and tensions in the way people showed themselves to the camera.

''Too often research is done here but presented and consumed elsewhere, and not to people who should be its first audience.''

The biennial hardscrabble approach - in contrast to Bamako or Dakar, in Senegal, which enjoy support from their culture ministries and significant foreign funding - was part of the appeal for Ms. Colard.

In Lubumbashi, the Congolese and provincial governments were invisible, offering neither support nor censure. ''This one has been created by local artists,'' Ms. Colard said. ''It's very grass roots.''

 If Lubumbashi is a remote outpost from an art world perspective, iy is a major location in economic history. Katanga is vastly wealthy in metals - cobalt, copper, gold and manganese, uranium and zinc -used in everything from electric wires to cellphones and nuclear bombs.

Founded in 1909 as Elizabethville [for the Queen of Belgium], Lubumbashi was built on extraction, the hub were minerals were loaded on the railroad, with leafy neighborhoods reserved for whites, in the colonial period and crowded ones for African workers.

''The region always had anything the world needed at the time it needed it,'' Ms. Colard said. ''At the same time, very few people know about Lubumbashi in the world.''

Mining and its impact - social, political ecological - were apparent in the biennial. Hadassa, Nagamba, an emerging Lubumbashi artist, exhibited a fabric piece with sections alluding to region's minerals, including shards of  bright green malachite.

A wall painting by Ghislain Ditshekedi, in black, red and gray mounted by wood blocks, suggested the circuit board of a modern computer - made possible by minerals - and included markings inspired by by those on a Paleolithic bone tool found in Congo that some scholars argue is an ancient tally stick.

The honor and serving of this Masterly Research on Africa, continues. The World Students Society thanks the author


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