Kinshasa, 2000

© Marie-Françoise Plissart

Plaizier Bruxelles



Veja também neste blog o post Kinshasa - Récits de la Ville Invisible


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Burkina Faso (s/data)

© Bastin & Evrard

Plaizier Bruxelles



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 Borama Girls Photo Club, Somalia, 2013


View Slideshow




In March 2013, UNICEF and ARETE STORIES launched a pilot project which trained 400 children along with 10 of their teachers how to use a camera and portray their everyday lives. The children themselves chose the various topics – water, food, friends and family and animals – that they wanted to capture. These photographs depict the rarely glimpsed, everyday lives of Somali children as seen through their own eyes.


Somalia is one of the worst places in the world to be a child. While conditions vary in the regions, the years of conflict, famine, displacement, lack of health facilities or schools have taken their toll on Somalia’s children. More than 200,000 children are still malnourished – mostly in the south – and more than a million children of primary school age are out of school. 


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A special theme also has its place here, that of slavery. It is special in that it does not feature in traditional images of reverse-glass painting. In the 1980s, on the initiative of Y. Dupre, administrator of the Regards Croises association, Gora Mbengue produced a series of works relating to slavery. Then in 1989-90 Mor Gueye took over and created a series inspired by the same theme. Here, for the first time, we are presented with a dramatic subject handled gravely. This is unusual, for reverse-glass paintings tend to tackle all themes positively, if not always with humour. Whether the subject is Islam, where we en­counter religious propaganda or a cult of the saints, history, in which the praise of national heroes is sung, or tales and proverbs, where the oral tradition is itself celebrated, there is not one reverse-glass painting that is not optimistic. Even in scenes of daily life, humour, sometimes mixed with cynicism, is brought to bear on theft, adultery, domestic conflict and other problems, large and small. After all, the end justifies the means: the moral message asserts itself almost by accident, with ease and never sententiously. We receive constant lessons in good spirits; then, sud­denly, in a commissioned work on slavery we encounter drama. Reverse-glass paintings bluntly confront us with the brutal reality: torture, chains, babies thrown to crocodiles in front of their mothers, distress, the house of the slaves at Goree, whose 'door of no return' requires no comment. It is, of course, impossible to handle the issue of slavery with detachment. Attemps to generate laughter in order to avoid crying would be inexcusable. The fact, therefore, that traditional reverse-glass painting never alludes to this episode in Senegal's history is in no way surprising, for it would be a departure from the fundamentally optimistic inclination of this art. Interesting as further attempts to portray the history of slavery might be, this particular commission was intended to teach a lesson in tolerance in schools and cultural centres, and slavery remains a marginal trend. Further, one must not forget that reverse-glass paintings were originally intended exclusively for Senegalese people - to define their religious af­filiation, for example, or to educate, or to supply decorative scenes that would give an aesthetic touch to a home. What Senegalese would want to awaken such painful memories when, thanks to reverse-glass paint­ing, he can instead proclaim his deepest beliefs, both religious and intel­lectual?


Senegal and Gambia were the first regions in western Africa from whence slaves were exported. This commerce, at its height in the 18th century, was encouraged by the kings of Kayor and Baol, who traded human merchandise for various products, especially guns.Wolof aristocrats and leading citizens did not need the impetus of this commerce to create their own reserves of slaves, who were already to hand under the caste system. They did not have any scruples about systematically seizing individuals or groups that they could use for bar­tering. As for the French, their insatiable demand for African labour sanctioned this state of affairs. The lure of profit did the rest, establishing a foul triangular system of commerce that was to prove to be difficult to abolish.



Anne-Marie Bouttiaux-Ndiaye 

in Senegal Behind Glass, Images of Religious and Daily Life

(Profane genres and subjects)

© 1994 Prestel-Verlag, Munich and New York and the Royal Museum for Central Africa





Mor Gueye  The House of Slaves at Goree, 1992


33x48 cm 

Private collection


A black and white composition, both in theme and tone. The white officer in his uni­form, conceited and haughty, dominates the scene by his height as well as by his position in the organization of the image. The black slaves are crushed, small, crumpled and separated, with the women on one side and the men on the other, just as the house of slaves was actually arranged. At the 'door of no return', a gaping black hole, is a slave squatting in front of the inescapable fate that awaits him. There are a few contemp­orary 'scholarly' artists who work in black and white, but Mor Gueye is the only tradi­tional one who does so.

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Moral tales and proverbs have generated a whole spectrum of paintings, often dealt with humorously, and with certain characters treated with derision. There is no doubt that these pictures follow the same pedagogic purpose as the tales, sayings, riddles and other stories that are told at home by the fireside in the evening. When the women were out buying reverse-glass paintings to decorate their homes, they not only sought out examples that articulated their religious beliefs, but also ones that would show examples of good and bad behaviour to their children.





Alexis Ngom The Torment of the Bad Master, 1995

55x48 cm

Private collection

© Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren

This painting illustrates a widely held belief according to which a master who mistreated his animals will be punished after his death by the ones he mistreated.





Babacar Lo (Lô Ba)  The Baobab-Women, 1994

48 x 33 cm

© Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren

A tale from Casamance: two young women are turned into baobab trees for mocking an elderly hunchback. The moral of the story is a reminder of the strong respect in which the elderly are held in African societies.




Anne-Marie Bouttiaux-Ndiaye 

in Senegal Behind Glass, Images of Religious and Daily Life

(Profane genres and subjects) 

© 1994 Prestel-Verlag, Munich and New York and the Royal Museum for Central Africa





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A Young Woman, no date

photograph, with a painted decorative background, 45 x 47 cm





Seated Man, no date

photograph, with a painted decorative background, 50 x 60 cm


Following German and Dutch precedent, where paintings made on the back of glass are called Hinterglasmalerei and achterglasschilderij re­spectively, we have coined the term 'reverse-glass painting'. To speak of 'behind-glass' painting generates ambiguity, and it hardly conveys an idea of the basic technique, which involves work performed on the back of a sheet of glass. (Although 'back-of-glass' removes all ambiguities, it is dreadfully cumbersome.) The term eglomise, widely used by histor­ians of the decorative arts, refers specifically to a technique that involves decorating glass by means of gilding, while the expression 'fixed under glass' refers, of course, to pictures pasted behind or framed under glass.The word 'fixed' is, none the less, frequently encountered in the liter­ature on Senegalese art, and, if its application is often incorrect, it is sometimes partially appropriate in a few early examples where both techniques — painting and pasting — are combined: these examples are chromolithographs or photographs that have been placed behind painted glass. Finally, in Senegal, glass paintings are called suwer, a Wolof word directly borrowed from the French sous-verre (behind or under glass). By extension, suwer is the term that is also used to emphasize the qualities of culinary dishes made with a great variety of ingredients: a ceebu jen (rice with fish) is called ceeb suwer when it is richly decorated and colourful.



Anne-Marie Bouttiaux-Ndiaye

in Senegal Behind Glass, Images of Religious and Daily Life 

© 1994 Prestel-Verlag, Munich and New York and the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren





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Luanda, Angola 

© Royal Museum for Central Africa


This staged picture was shot in a studio on the African West Coast, and shows Henry M. Stanley describing his travels to the Portuguese Expedition (Ivens, Capelo, Serpa Pinto) at Luanda, [August or September 1877].

This oval-framed photograph, mounted on cardboard, with pencil inscription, is kept in the Henry M. Stanley Archives (King Baudouin Foundation Collection held in trust at the RMCA).



veja aqui o livro "Exploradores Portugueses e Reis Africanos"




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Maître SYMS

"Article 15"*, 1992

Courtesy: Gallery Lucien Bilinelli, Brussels

© Plazier, Brussels 



Écoutez mes bêtes,

la conjoncture de la 2ème République

ne permet pas de vous héberger!

Allez vous débrouiller


Snif... Maitre nous sommes ici pour vous!

Pourquoi tu nous abandonnes comme ça?

Où pouvons nous aller




Visitei recentemente o Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale, em Bruxelas, agora fechado durante 4 anos para obras de remodelação. Queria ver pela última vez as colecções na versão século XIX. A crónica de José Cutileiro no primeiro dia do ano — Nuers e Dinkas — serve-me agora de pretexto para regressar a África com mais umas curiosidades (ver tag Congo).


O artigo e o breve documentário recomendados abaixo são antigos mas permanecem actuais.



*Article 15:


After a series of deflationary measures announced by the Zairean government in September 1983, prices for basic commodities rose by 30 to 40 percent while salaries remained unchanged. This further reduced the standard of living of the average Zairean. A schoolteacher in Kinshasa, for example, makes $13 per month. A civil servant with a university diploma, earns $25 per month.


''With such salaries,'' a Western diplomat explains, ''you can't make both ends meet. To survive most Zaireans make ample use of what is known here as Article 15.'' In clearer terms this means many Zaireans give way to corruption: teachers sell diplomas. No official form is available from a civil servant without a tip.


O artigo Zaire, An African Nation rich in natural resources but plagued by political instability and economic stagnation na íntegra aqui 


Defined as 'Manage by Yourself', the mythical article 15 founded an 'informal' economy in Zaire. Squatting in the grey mud of the market Place, black 'Mamas' barter for survival, singing as they prepare their wares. They manage to supplement their husbands' earnings by running a 'black market'.


O documentário The Definition of Poverty - DRC  April 1996 aqui





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 Gerhard Richter, Neger (Nuba), 1964, 145 x 200 cm, Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery © Gerhard Richter, 2012








Nuers e Dinkas



Do Sudão do Sul, 193° membro da ONU, chegam más notícias. O novo país, paupérrimo sobre ricas reservas de petróleo, de população dantes dada a religiões não-reveladas, mas mais ou menos cristianizada por missionários europeus e americanos durante o Condomínio Anglo-Egípcio, ficando integrado no Sudão desde a descolonização de 1956, entrara em guerras sangrentas com o governo muçulmano de Cartum durando mais de 20 anos para conseguir independência que o libertasse das tribos islamizadas e esclavagistas do norte. Guerras por fim ganhas pelo sul, tendo causado 2 milhões de mortos, esperava-se que houvessem cimentado sentimento nacional entre as duas grandes tribos pastoralista e guerreiras do país, os Nuers e os Dinkas (que há menos de um século andavam nus, viviam do gado, se administravam sem governo e combatiam à lança).


Esperança vã. Eleições deram maioria à tribo maior, os Dinkas; o Presidente eleito convidou um Nuer, para vice-presidente - mas correu com ele em Julho e a curta paz acabou. Em 9 dos 10 estados federados do país grassam guerrilhas, reprimidas com tortura e massacre de civis. Dinkas e Nuers resvalam para guerra com 50.000 civis a pedirem protecção à ONU (que dobrou para 12.500 a força que lá colocara). A conselheira de segurança do Presidente dos Estados Unidos fez às partes as exortações piedosas do costume – renúncia à violência; diálogo – mas Washington, sobretudo desde o show de Obama na Síria, não mete o respeito que metia.


O Sudão do Sul é ao lado da Republica Centro-Africana, à beira de guerra civil entre maioria cristã e minoria muçulmana que começaram a matar-se uns aos outros. Como a expedição ao Mali foi a coisa que menos mal lhe correu desde que é presidente de França, Hollande mandou logo tropa para Bangui, onde estão também forças da União Africana. Soldados do Chade, muçulmanos, já foram assassinados por cristãos locais. Perante o descalabro, Samantha Power, embaixadora americana na ONU, fez uma visita relâmpago a Bangui onde exortou toda a gente a portar-se bem prevenindo que os Estados Unidos “estavam atentos”. Autora premiada de livro sobre genocídio (que enferma da pecha americana de ver o mal e o bem a preto e branco), conselheira de Obama, sumida enquanto Hillary Clinton foi Secretário de Estado (dissera, julgando que um microfone estava desligado, que Hillary era “um monstro”) voltou à cena sem ter aprendido nada.


Se os Estados Unidos perderam de vez o jeito de agarrar o mundo pela pele do pescoço, como se agarra um gato – jeito que lhes ganhou duas guerras mundiais e a guerra fria - a megalomania de Putin, a convicção de superioridade dos chineses, agitar-se-ão para ocupar o lugar vazio. Nenhuma delas o conseguirá mas para os europeus vão ser tempos duros. Sem América forte e decidida não haverá ordem no mundo. E sem ajuda americana os europeus nem terão o preciso – reabastecimento aéreo, munições de precisão, espionagem – para mandar fazer pazes em brigas africanas.



Ano Novo feliz!



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Um enorme jacaré de 4,5 m de comprido morto em 1910 pelo 2º tenente Almeida Pinheiro, imediato da canhoneira chaimite e por um sargento do mesmo navio em frente da praia da catembe (Lourenço Marques)*.






*Legenda manuscrita no verso da fotografia, gentilmente cedida por Laura Castro Caldas, a quem muito agradeço.
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© Marie-Françoise Plissart




Descubra o livro Kinshasa, récits de la ville invisible de Filip De Boeck, Marie-Françoise Plissart e Jean-Pierre Jacquemin, clicando no título.


2 artigos recentes:


"Cinq décennies de descente aux enfers" aqui


"Au Congo, anniversaire au coeur des ténèbres" aqui

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Every children’s story that works at all begins with a simple opposition of good and evil, of straightforward innocence and envious corruption. While the good hero or heroine has to be particularized, with flaws and idiosyncrasies, the evil force is, oddly, the more powerful the less distinct it is; because villainy is itself so interesting, there’s no great need to particularize the villain. In few works of children’s literature is the creation of dull and faceless evil as effective as it is in the Babar saga. “Page 2 of ‘Babar’ ” is a code word among certain parents for the entire issue of what it is right to expose our children to. (It’s actually the sixth numbered page in the book, and the fourth page in the story, but it seems to register as page 2, being the second element after the introduction of the elephant nursery idyll.) It is there that Babar’s mother, with her little elephant on her back, is murdered, with casual brutality, by a squat white hunter. The pro-page-twoers think that without the incident the story is robbed of motive and pathos; the anti-page-twoers think that it’s just too hard, too early, and too brutal, so they turn the story into one of a little elephant who merely wanders into Paris—not such a bad premise.






Far more than an allegory of colonialism, the “Babar” books are a fable of the difficulties of a bourgeois life. “Truly it is not easy to bring up a family,” Babar sighs at one point, and it is true. The city lives on the edge of a desert, and animals wander in and out at will, and then wander out again to make cities of their own. The civilizing principle is energetic but essentially comical, solid-looking on the outside but fragile in its foundations, reducible to rubble by rhinoceroses. Even the elephants, for all their learning and sailor suits, can be turned into slaves through a bad twist of fate. The unruliness of natural life is countered by the beautiful symmetries of classical style and the absurd orderliness of domestic life—but we are kidding ourselves if we imagine that we are ever really safe. Death is a rifle shot and a poisoned mushroom away. The only security, the de Brunhoff books propose, lies in our commitment to those graceful winged elephants that, in Babar’s dream, at the end of “Babar the King,” chase away misfortune. Love and Happiness, who are at the heart of the American vision, are, in Babar’s dream, mere tiny camp followers. The larger winged elephants, which are at the forefront of this French vision of civilized life, are instead Intelligence, Patience, Learning, and Courage. “Let’s work hard and cheerfully and we’ll continue to be happy,” the Old Lady tells the elephants, and, though we know that the hunter is still in the woods, it is hard to know what more to add.




Adam Gopnik

in “Freeing The Elephants”

© The New Yorker, September 22, 2008 aqui




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Brussels is not unique. In Berlin, there are no museums or monuments to the slaughtered Hereros, and in Paris and Lisbon no visible reminders of the rubber terror that slashed in half the populations of parts of French and Portuguese Africa. In the American South, there are hundreds of Civil War battle monuments and preserved plantation manor houses for every exhibit that in any way marks the existence of slavery. And yet the world we live in — its divisions and conflicts, its widening gap between rich and poor, its seemingly inexplicable outbursts of violence — is shaped far less by what we celebrate and mythologize than by the painful events we try to forget. Leopold's Congo is but one of those silences of history.


The Congo offers a striking example of the politics of forgetting. Leopold and the Belgian colonial officials who followed him went to extraordinary lengths to try to erase potentially incriminating evidence from the historical record. One day in August 1908, shortly before the colony was officially turned over to Belgium, the king's young military aide Gustave Stinglhamber walked from the Royal Palace to see a friend in the Congo state offices next door. The midsummer day seemed particularly warm, and the two men went to an open window to talk. Stinglhamber sat down on a radiator, then jumped to his feet: it was burning hot. When the men summoned the janitor for an explanation, he replied, "Sorry, but they're burning the State archives." The furnaces burned for eight days, turning most of the Congo state records to ash and smoke in the sky over Brussels. "I will give them my Congo," Leopold told Stinglhamber, "but they have no right to know what I did there."



Adam Hochschild

in King Leopold’s Ghost p. 294

A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa

© Adam Hochschild, 1998





em português aqui



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Au Congo Belge

foto E. Lebied / Congopresse

© Royal Museum for Central Africa, Bruxelas



Há dois anos que venho estudando – com um crescente interesse – os problemas africanos, e em especial os do Congo Belga e de Angola, porque não perdoaria a mim próprio tratá-los perante o Ministério com a leviandade com que outros, anteriormente, o têm feito. Estão-se passando em África coisas muito graves que, num futuro mais ou menos distante, poderão vir a afectar seriamente a nossa posição se não nos prevenirmos desde já contra os seus eventuais efeitos, revendo em diversos sectores a nossa política colonial, não como quase sempre se tem feito mas pela criação de um novo estado de coisas. (Tudo isto naturalmente, dito assim, cheira um pouco a profecias tipo Dr. Rakar. Espero porém que os relatórios que estou terminando deixem impressão diferente).



Vasco Futscher Pereira

Excerto de carta ao colega e amigo Amândio Pinto, 1954

in Retrovisor, um Álbum de Família

© RCP edições, 2009


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Théoriquement, mais théoriquement seulement, le colonialisme règne en Afrique depuis la Conférence de Berlin (1883-1885) au cours de laquelle quelques États européens, essentiellement l'Angleterre et la France, mais aussi la Belgique, l'Allemagne et le Portugal, se sont partagé le continent tout entier, jusqu'à la libération de l'Afrique dans la seconde moitié du XXe siècle. En fait, la pénétration coloniale a commencé bien plus tôt, dès le XVe siècle, et elle n’a cessé de progresser au cours des cinq siècles suivants. La phase la plus honteuse et la plus brutale de cette conquête fut le commerce des esclaves africains, qui dura plus de trois cents ans. Trois cents ans de traques, de rafles, de poursuites et d'embuscades organisées par des Blancs, souvent avec la complicité d'Africains et d'Arabes. Entassés dans des cales de navires, des millions de jeunes Africains ont été déportés dans des conditions cauchemardesques au-delà de l'océan Atlantique afin d'y édifier, à la sueur de leur front, la richesse et le pouvoir du Nouveau Monde.



Ryszard Kapuscinski

in Ébène Aventures africaines pp. 31-32

traduit du polonais par Véronique Patte

©Ryszard Kapuscinski,1998/Librairie Plon 2000


Imagem encontrada aqui








O rio Congo

foto E. Lebied / Congopresse

(fotografia reproduzida em Retrovisor, um Álbum de Família)

© Royal Museum for Central Africa, Bruxelas




Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once—somewhere—far away—in another existence perhaps. There were moments when one's past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.



Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)


in Heart of Darkness pp. 42-43

1999 Modern Library Paperback Edition



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Léopoldville, 1953




Não sou de maneira nenhuma indiferente ao lugar onde nasci, apesar de o ter deixado com dois anos de idade e nunca mais ter voltado. O cenário das fotografias e recordações da minha primeira infância ocupa naturalmente o seu espaço no meu imaginário, e nas minhas fidelidades.


Nos documentos de identificação, comecei por ser natural de Léopoldville, Congo Belga. Depois da independência, em 1960, chamou-se República Congolesa, República Democrática do Congo, ou Congo-Kinshasa; em 1971 passou a chamar-se Zaire e hoje é de novo República Democrática do Congo.


Li muita coisa sobre o Congo enquanto estava a escrever Retrovisor, um Álbum de Família e partilharei neste blog algumas passagens das minhas leituras, como habitualmente. No capítulo que dediquei ao Congo não incluí citações porque tinha material de sobra. Considero a descriçao feita pelo meu pai do meio colonial belga no seu relatório para MNE um dos textos mais interessantes do livro, talvez por ser tão pouco lisongeiro para os belgas como para os portugueses. Mostrarei neste blog mais algumas fotografias da agência "Congopresse", das quais possuo mais de uma dezena e cujos direitos de reprodução me foram gentilmente oferecidos pelo "Africa Museum de Tervuren".



Em Bruxelas, onde tenho passado boa parte da minha vida adulta, o Congo tem múltiplas presenças que têm aprofundado o meu interesse e a minha ligação com a terra onde nasci, o lugar que ainda não deixou de ser o Coração das Trevas de África.



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