In the south of Katanga, one of the richest regions in Africa and also the economic heart of Congo, towns grew up around the copper and cobalt mines. The relationship between the mining industry and the population here is almost comparable to the relationship between parents and their children. For the last ten years Sammy Baloji has been taking photographs of the memories, hopes and imaginations of these children of the mine. The historical perspective of the Mémoire series dares to invite the oppressed of yesterday into a dialogue with the ruins of today. What is shown is certainly not a stalemate, but rather an invitation to rethink society, a kind of attempt to exorcise evil spirits, to give peace to the dead, so that they no longer haunt us.
The optimism of this approach is abundantly clear in Kolwezi, where the picture is painted of a ghost town and of workers who – insofar as they can still manage it – identify with their riches and dream again of a comfortable life. And, moreover, of their thirst for dignity.
The Lunda are a dignified people. Powerful, brave, proud and loyal to the traditions of their ancestors. The Lunda were one of the most respected and successful civilisations in central Africa from the 18th to the mid-19th century, but even in the 21st century their culture and traditions remain vital and relevant.