In ‘Congo Océan’ French artist Éric Manigaud presents the final piece of his intensive research of European Colonial History. The show runs simultaneously with 'Ceux qui creusent’ at Galerie Sator in Paris, Belgian Congo being the subject in Paris and French Congo in Antwerp.
Manigaud is known for his photorealistic graphite drawings, that are based on historic photographic archive material about violent episodes in Europe’s past. Due to their graphic nature and monumental scale, his drawings are physical and disruptive experiences that urge to remember. The title of this show refers to the ‘Congo-Océan’ railway line, running from Brazzaville (capital of the Congo Republic, former colony of France) to Pointe-Noire. The construction started in 1921. During the ten years it took to complete, thousands of people died due to the poor (forced) working conditions. In Belgian Congo, on the other side of the Congo River, a parallel route was constructed departing from Léopoldville (present-day Kinshasa). However, the similarities between the two colonial empires went beyond infrastructure; chained slaves, burnt-down villages and the ‘chicotte’ were omnipresent, with a population loss of about 50% in both the rubber-rich equatorial forest controlled by France and in Leopold's Congo. The crimes of this period can thus be considered European, rather than only Belgian or French. A shared history, cleverly emphasised by the artist through a simultaneous exhibition in both countries.