This reception spotlights a week full of Africa-related activities on campus: talks from the Mershon Africa Forum and Mershon’s Centering the Global Periphery series as well as the opening of Urban Arts Space's exhibition Embroidered Past, Imagined Future: Lucie Kamuswekera and the Violence in Eastern Congo, curated by Dr. Sarah Van Beurden (History/AAAS) and supported by Global Arts+Humanities. With this reception, we also celebrate the relaunch of the university’s Center for African Studies and welcome our new Black Studies colleagues.
“Njo saa nili ona batu bana kufa, njo sasa nika shona histoire ya congo”
“It is when I saw people die, that I began embroidering the history of Congo”
— Lucie Kamuswekera, Goma, 2021
This exhibition introduces the work of Lucie Kamuswekera, an 80-year-old woman living in the city of Goma in the Eastern DR Congo. By embroidering images about her country’s past and present on burlap sacks, Kamuswekera has visualized a history of the region that reflects deeply on the historical roots of the violence that plagues it today.
As a child, Lucie Kamuswekera learned embroidery in a colonial missionary school. As a teenager and young woman, she experienced the latter days of Belgian colonialism and the turbulent period of Congolese independence. The upheavals in the Eastern Congo in the 1990s profoundly changed her life. The start of the first Congo war in 1996 marked the beginning of years of violence and armed conflict in the region where Lucie Kamuswekera grew up and lives. These events marked her life in a traumatic way. In 1997 Lucie’s husband was killed while on his way to his fields. Like many before and after her, Lucie was forced to flee and settled as a widow in the city of Goma. There she started embroidery again, as a means of meeting her material needs and expressing herself in relation to her country’s troubled past.
Kamuswekera joins a long-standing tradition in African popular “urban” art that reflects on historical and present societal ills, but she is also exceptional as a woman in the male-dominated artistic world of the DR Congo. Her careful, embroidered observations provide us with an insightful reading of the current conflict in eastern Congo, violence against women, international intervention, and the relation between violence and the exploitation of natural resources.
Art and Activism Panel: September 23, 3:00 PM at Urban Arts Space, funded by the Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme "Conflict and Im/Mobilities" Grant