We cannot reckon how great the damage is, since the merchants daily seize our subjects, sons of the land and sons of our noblemen, vassals and relatives ... and cause them to be sold; and so great, Sir, is their corruption and licentiousness that our country is being utterly depopulated.
—Alfonso I of Congo in a letter to King João of Portugal, 1526
In governmental reports and in the majority of the international news coverage refugees and asylum seekers are commonly treated as one homogeneous body that only gets further individualized by rationalistic signifiers like legal statuses, countries of origin, and classifying numbers. Subjective stories and individual experiences, memories, and imaginaries ultimately slip through this rationalistic taxonomy of ostensibly tangible facts and disappear into the realm of oblivion or ignorance.
In his workshop Inscribing Meaning Sammy Baloji invites the Green light participants to work with and through their individual narratives and to create sculptures or images that represent the emotional or cultural amplitude of their very personal account.
Inscribing Meaning is inspired by Baloji’s installation Fragments of Interlaced Dialogues (2017) in which he critically analyzes the history of expropriations of Congolese people through the epistemology of seven woven raffia mats from Congo Kingdom. By engraving the negatives of the mats on plates of copper extracted from Congolese soil, Baloji draws a significant line between past colonial impoverishments and the ever more brutal cycle of necro-capitalism in the form of the continued exploitation in Congolese copper mines.
Sammy Baloji was born in 1978 in Lubumbashi, in the mineral-rich Katanga province of Democratic Republic of Congo. He studied Computer and Information Sciences and Communication at the University of Lubumbashi. Raised in Lubumbashi, Sammy Baloji was sensitized to the colonial history and the postcolonial decline of the once-prosperous mining region of DRC, which Chinese companies exploit today. Baloji juxtaposes photographic realities, combining past and present, the real and the ideal, to illicit glaring cultural and historical tensions. He explores architecture and the human body as traces of social history, sites of memory, and witnesses to operations of power.