Award-winning at Cannes and official representative of Belgium at the Oscars, the artist and filmmaker, born in Lubumbashi (DRC), offers a journey combining costumes, photos and videos in the Antwerp museum, in parallel with the release of his film in theaters.
At the end from the hall opens a black box that looks like a cabinet of curiosities. Here float some ofhe souls who have accompanied Baloji’s journey in recent years, from songs to short films, from costume design to film shooting. Lthe lights, Lthe images, Lfloods of colors and sounds Who populate his imagination are highlighted by divers colorful snakes. The atmosphere is as if iridescent, bewitched. No doubt: the place is bathed in magical realism like its film Augurawarded at Cannes and representing Belgium at the Oscars, the release of which this exhibition announces.
Photos, costumes and videos mark the journey of an artist who has made meetings and artistic exchanges the beating heart of his work between Europe and Africa. Whether in music – the art that made him known – or in design and styling – the art that sticks to his skin – or more and more in images: those which inhabit his soul and which he places on screen as a director. A taste of the universe of his first feature film is offered in a dedicated space, sealed behind a stage curtainemblant floating between sea and sky.
If he cannot imagine his life without sound – since his immersion in the rap group Starflam, Then his solo flight with his album Hotel Impala in 2008 – color and image have always accompanied Baloji. Just like his Congolese heritage which he has questioned since his arrival in Belgium, at the age of 4, in the wake of a fickle father.
Her collaboration with the Fashion Museum (Momu) in Antwerp owes nothing to chance: Baloji has been working within its walls for several years already. To make your choice in the middle of ses photos, objects and costumes,‘inspiration him came from the three photos presented on the left wall: figures perched on tree roots.
Torrential rains alert us to a terrible climatic situation
“It was an event that had a profound impact on me and really influenced the making of the film., says Baloji. Normally, the rainy season lasts an average of two months with between 45 and 50 days of heavy rain. Lto, they suffered more than 150 days of rain torrential. This alerts us to a terrible climatic situation. »
The photos were taken at the Kinshasa botanical garden. “ NOTnormally, It is a place of conviviality, of prayer, of passage. Finding it completely flooded, inaccessible, was really striking. » Not to mention that torrential rains cause a lot of other problems, ” particularly water evacuation. With tragic consequences. I wanted to testify to this… And, at the same time, this plant space under 40 centimeters of water where the vegetation seems to float, creates insane and in a certain way sublime images. Even though I shouldn’t not say it like that; it should find another term »he confides apologetically.
It was pointed out to him that two recent films, produced in Africa, echo climate problems: Mambar Pierrette by Rosine Mbakam and Banel and Adama by Ramata-Toulaye Sy. “Without this being the main subject of these films, we see that Africa is directly affected by this situation of disruption” although it is far from being the main cause.
“ Augur doesn’t really talk about it, but I wanted to put this question at the center of the exhibition because it is challenging. It is the situation qwhat we are leaving to the world and to our children is appalling. That showand also what is essential: nature having a horror of a vacuum, it always takes its place. Hence the metaphor of the coffin, from which flowers emerge and this water which seems ready to invade everything. This is all the more challenging since the Congo has enough electricity resources to light the entire continent but, despite everything, we experience load shedding and power cuts every day. This tree, inspired by one of the scenes in the film, tells this story. Without it being the sole theme, por not be too didactic. The idea remainsant to let the visitor form their own opinion, their own thoughts. »
Baloji’s link with Momu goes back several years and is nestled on the third floor of the building. “I work with a wonderful woman: Elke Hoste, third year master’s professor in tailoring (At FFI, for Flanders Fashion InstituteEditor’s note). She welcomed me with wide open arms. We made all the costumes Zombie (his short filmEditor’s note) and of Skin of sorrow together. They are great people: they tell you that if you have ideas and the organization to do it, you can do it. Growing up in Liège, in the world that was mine, I never met people to encourage me and tell me that creation was not a privilege, that it was not forbidden to me. Until I was 22, going into a museum was not for me.”
Fashion is an art of initiates, not an art of bag sellers
Elke Hostemet through people with whom Baloji already worked in costume making, told him breathed faith in him. “ We created a lot of the Augure costumes together. » Like Maman Mujila who, in the film, wears a dress with lace in rphia, “ a work ofs Bruges lacemakers imported and adapted years ago in Congo ». New a nod to the intertwined history of the two countries.
“ LPeople in fashion are very different from influencers. They are true artisans. I learned from their contact that those who need to know, who designed this or that piece, know it. No one brags on social media. They hate it. Fashion is an art of initiates, not an art of bag sellers”, emphasizes Baloji.
With Elke Hoste, he has designed a typical New Orleans costume failing to be able to borrow A For the movie. Sparkling and combining blue and white, it is visible in Momu.
“It was interesting to make the connection between New Orleans, where they do all their parades thinking of their African heritage and we who have marching bands everywhere imagining New Orleans. And to see how these universe join. Their culture is based on crossbreeding: lare traditions French, Indian, Caribbean and Africanlists Baloji. I was struck by all these intersections, especially when I passed Congo Square. It’s fascinating: they use cowries thinking of Africa where the majority never set foot. »
This costume art highlights the active use of the mask in rites: it is not only a beautiful object to place on A wall. “ The masks tell a story, they are alive” he reminds. It took three months to make the six masks seens in the movie. New proof of L’extreme attention by Baloji materials, colors And sounds. Tall these details that weave our lives.
Interview: Karin Tshidimba
nb: The film “Augure”, presented at the Cinékin de Kinshasa since October 20, is released in theaters in Brussels this Wednesday, November 15.