The work of Congolese artist Georges Senga centers on traces of encounters. In the past decade, he has developed projects that incorporate archives documenting priests’ missions in his hometown of Lubumbashi, and interviews recording conversations about Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the independent Democratic Republic of Congo in 1960. Whatever his subject, Senga chronicles signs of confrontations between Africa and Europe before and after the process of decolonization above all through photography.
Senga’s most widely-exhibited photographic series, Empreintes, illustrates discarded objects on the ground in Lubumbashi. The array of rusty gears, playing cards, and broken bottles in his square-format, black-and-white photographs records the presence of passersby, whether local or foreign, and their persistent dismissal of the landscape. Industrially produced and natural detritus recur with the same frequency, dissolving any distinction between human and natural degradation. A withered tree root and a pair of plastic bottles blend into the dusty ground with the same, chameleon-like ability to disappear into the surroundings as if they were integral to them. Senga’s black-and-white representations focus our attention on the neglect that created the landscape in question, and on the unexpected beauty that can come of disregard. (LH)
About the artist
Georges Senga was born in 1983 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then called Zaire), where he still lives and works. He received a degree from the University of Lubumbashi in 2009, by which point he had already begun his photography career. His breakthrough came in 2008 during the first edition of the Biennale de Lubumbashi. Senga’s work explores the issues of identity, heritage, and history, and how they intersect with memory. Postcolonial themes also appear frequently in his work. His series Une vie après la mort (2012), comprising fourteen diptychs, explores possible and imagined futures if the Congolese liberation hero Patrice Lumumba had not been assassinated in 1961. The latter was exhibited in the Musée national de Lubumbashi, the Biennale de Kampala, and Le BRASS – Centre Culturel de Forest in Brussels. From 2011 to 2013, Senga participated in the Master Class program organized by the Goethe-Institut of Johannesburg. He has held residencies at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, the Foundation B.a.d. in Rotterdam, and others. His work is part of a 2022 group exhibition at Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium.