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New museum on former plantation opens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
LIRCAEI's first stone ceremony, presided by the Congolese Minister of Arts and Culture © Léonard Pongo.

LUSANGA.- A new white cube museum space, designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, was inaugurated. With its solemn inauguration dubbed “The Repatriation of the White Cube,” the new museum functions as the cornerstone of the Lusanga International Research Centre on Art and Economic Inequality in Lusanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the former site of a Unilever palm oil plantation in the Congolese forest.

LIRCAEI is a joint initiative of the Cercle D'Art Des Travailleurs De Plantation Congolaise (the Congolese Plantation Workers Art League, or CATPC) and the Amsterdam based Institute for Human Activites. The research centre is dedicated to the transformation of former plantation spaces into areas for artistic critique, beauty, and ecological diversity, through funneling art world capital back to the plantations it was originally extracted from—to create, in other words, a post-plantation. The members of CATPC are plantation workers, but they are also artists who create sculptures made of cacao amongst other works. All profits from the sale of their sculptures go back to the Congo, for ventures such as LIRCAEI, where experimental, community-owned cacao and palm oil gardens are being established. The aim is to retain profits within the community, buy back land and finance further development.

In collaboration with the local community, OMA has developed a master-plan for the LIRCAEI site, with the goal of establishing the center as a legitimization machine, investigating and relaying the artistic visions and works of plantation workers in the Congo and throughout the global south on the site of their former exploitation. The grand inauguration of the White Cube space, which includes an internet platform, marks the launch of this five-year plan. It includes contributions from the plantation workers united in CATPC, alongside artists such as Sammy Baloji, Carsten Höller, Luc Tu ymans, and Marlene Dumas.

Plugged into international networks, the White Cube focuses at once on exposing worldwide inequalities and generating a new and inclusive economic and ecological model to redress them. By establishing itself on the foundation of a new economic and artistic ecosystem, rather than through the existing market (many institutions in which, from the Tate Modern to the Van Abbemuseum to the Museum Ludwig, have been constructed in part with funds obtained through the exploitation of plantation workers), LIRCAEI and the new White Cube museum represent a new way forward, through art, for disenfranchised communities.

The program will be held in Lingala and French, with assistance to English speakers. Admission is free. A fee will be charged for lodging and meals. International participants are advised to take contact with the travel coordinator at:

Participating artists include: Sammy Baloji, Marlene Dumas, Michel Ekeba, Eleonore Hellio, Carsten Holler, Irene Kanga, Mathieu Kasiama, Jean Katambayi, Jean Kawata, Mbuku Kimpala, Thomas Leba, Jeremie Mabiala, Daniel Manenga, Mega Mingiedi, Emery Mohamba, Cedrick Tamasala and Luc Tuymans.

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