Sammy Baloji was born and raised in Lubumbashi, in the contested and mineral-rich Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly the Belgian Congo and Zaire). Sammy's work juxtaposes architecture, industrial ruins, and vast slag heaps with images of the people—workers, villagers, urbanites—to explore identity, social history, and memory. For his Fellowship year, Sammy will focus on the Gendarmes Katangais, a rebel resistance group from the copper-rich Katanga province of DRC. The Katangese Gendarmes have influenced political landscapes in Central Africa since the Cold War and are likely to continue to do so. Defeated in their battle for the succession of Katanga from Congo/Zaire during the 1960s, the Katangese Gendarmes based themselves in neighbouring Angola among communities that shared their mostly Lunda ethnicity. In precolonial times, a Lunda kingdom had ruled this cross-border region.Read More
The Katangese Gendarmes mobilised Lunda unity during the 1970s and, aided by Angolan forces, staged two insurgent wars against Zaire, ruled by President Mobutu. Mobutu, claiming the rebels were backed by Cuba and the USSR, enlisted aid from the US, France, and China, and defeated the rebels. During the 1990s, the Katangese Gendarmes joined Laurent Kabila's successful overthrow of Mobutu, but many became disillusioned with Kabila's rule and eventually returned to Angola, where today they struggle to maintain their identity and still dream of a return "home" to Katanga. In this new project Sammy will continue his collaboration with anthropologist and Lunda expert, Filip De Boeck, and his use of archival resources in his photographic processes.
Sammy Baloji lives and works in Lubumbashi, DRC and Brussels, Belgium. Baloji has had solo exhibitions at: Musée du quai Branly, Paris; MuZee, Oostende, Belgium; Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren; and Museum for African Art, New York. His solo show that opened in May at WIELS, Contemporary Art Center Brussels titled Sammy Baloji & Filip De Boeck — Urban Now: City Life in Congo, is currently showing at the Open Society Foundation, New York. Widely collected, Baloji has been featured in numerous group exhibitions worldwide. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including, the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, 2015, and the 2014 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative award, partnering with Olafur Eliasson. He was a Prix Pictet finalist in 2009, received the Prince Claus Award in 2008, and two awards at the 2007 African Photography Biennial in Bamako, Mali. Sammy is represented in the United States by Axis Gallery, New York.