Thursday, May 5, 2011

Under Construction

Salvaged wood and aluminum, bicycle wheels, and tinkering; the cart is taking shape. We'll be debuting it at PLACE Gallery in downtown Portland next month.
As we develop the central object here, our ideas about what we are trying to communicate are developing as well. Trying to express this long and torturous history through a single object is a challenge, and we're constantly reminded that there is a great and general lack of knowledge about Sub-Saharan Africa in America. Certainly there's a broad ignorance of the US role in the destabilization of Congo after its independence from Belgium, but the activities of Belgium and King Leopold prior to that era are almost entirely unfamiliar. It's partly the process that Belgium's vicious colonial regime set in place that we are after here: when people in Congo rebelled against the brutal enforcement of rubber-harvest quotas, they were punished by having their hands amputated. The institution of a bounty for the hands of runaways led to unscrupulous enforcers chopping off every hand they could find, piling pirogues high with mounds of them. The trauma of this era and these practices has deeply permeated the culture of the Congo (and of Belgium), and the severed hand appears again and again as history grinds through the forests and mountains of the Congo region.

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