This review examines the fourth edition of the Lubumbashi Biennale (October 9 to November 8, 2015). Toma Muteba Luntumbue, the artistic director, and cocurator Daniella Géo assembled a strong corpus of socially engaged works of art in phase with Édouard Glissant’s conception of “meteoric realities,” which served as the curatorial rationale for the event. The review studies how the organizers wrestled creatively with the challenges of infrastructure, which bedevil most sub-Saharan biennales. They hosted a significant program of films, encouraged works developed on site, and adopted multiple outreach strategies. Most important, they invited a significant percentage of Congolese artists, who were able to bring the local and the global into fruitful dialogue through their historical consciousness of geopolitics. Various strategies for working on site are compared. Without a well-conceived method artists invited for brief visits can show a lack of commitment, resulting in intellectual superficiality and poor execution. The most resonant on-site creation belonged to Jean Katambayi, whose sculpture was initiated as part of an experiment to commission works in advance, permitting time for feedback and technical research. It would be a marvelous investment for biennale foundations to fund (through open applications) a number of local artists to develop works addressing relevant themes, giving them a year’s lead time. Artistic director Luntumbue believes that the artist should be an agent for progressive values, and the review takes seriously local reception by asking how Congolese interpret works of contemporary art, including Frances Bodomo (Afronauts), Kapwani Kiwanga (Vumbi), Mega Mingiedi (Lelo Awa).
Z. S. Strother; Meteoric Realities: The Fourth Biennale of Lubumbashi, October 9–November 8, 2015. Nka 1 November 2017; 2017 (41): 176–187. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-4271729
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