Chrystel Mukeba

P O R T R A I T S   S T Y L E   C O N G O 

Chrystel Mukeba works on the links between colonialism and Art Nouveau through portraiture of Afro-descendant Belgians in Art Nouveau buildings.

Her photographic subjects include people who carry intimate lived experiences of colonialism as well as younger generations whose relation to the not-so-distant past is but a specter.

The photographs were made in iconic Art Nouveau buildings, including the Horta Museum, built in 1898 by and for the architect Victor Horta, and the Hôtel van Eetvelde, designed in 1895 by Horta for Edmond van Eetvelde, general administrator of the Congo Free State.

By suggesting a symbolic reappropriation of this architectural heritage, built via the exploitation of Congolese raw materials such as hardwood, the work poses a question: To whom does this heritage belong today? Mukeba’s work draws a parallel with Santu Mofokeng's project The Black Album / Look at Me: 1890–1950 (2013), in which the photographer explores the self-representation of Black communities in nineteenth-century colonial South Africa and their desire for social recognition.

In her work, Mukeba proposes to make visible Belgium’s Afro-descendant communities and to give them the opportunity to be represented within buildings that were built during a period of violent oppression and cultural destruction. 

Collection Kanal Pompidou 

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