Sammy Baloji

Native copper crystals, research image, from Johari (1977), courtesy Johari: Minéraux du Shaba méridional, Gécamines, Brussels, 1977/Private collection

Sammy Baloji, Tales of the Copper Cross Garden: Episode I, 2017, various materials, EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, documenta 14, photo: Stathis Mamalakis

Sammy Baloji, installation view, Neue Galerie, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke


For Sammy Baloji, born in 1978 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, now lives and works in Brussels

bodies torn from their dreams
bodies perfectly subjugated
bodies bled white
bodies deprived of fuel

(and worn out upon the black market of memory)

bodies drained by the heat
bodies doomed to the arrogance of hunger, thirst, fatigue, to yet to be identified diseases, to collapse, reprimands, and again and forever this almost compulsive fatigue that gnaws at you from below, spirals through your whole body and makes your head spin

bodies mechanized
and summoned to carry out the eternal drudgery in the mines
endless chores of the tunnel, mosala ya mpunda
bodies, these bodies whose only rest is (eternal) sleep

digging without interruption

digging in the literal sense, figurative sense, and the Congolese sense

digging by day, by night, for years, for centuries and centuries

each day the same gesture, elegant, abrupt, jerky, rapid, awkward, piano mezzo forte
digging for the honor of the King
digging for the Queen
digging for the Kingdom
digging in the name of Civilization digging because one must break one’s limbs
shove one’s genealogy and the whole shebang between parentheses
and thus participate in the march of the world, of progress, of Humanity
even if it means landing empty-handed, jaws clenched, in greater history

and yes, because sacrifices are truly necessary, someone must give his blood, drool, saliva, sperm, in short, whatever organ of his protozoan body so that the machine keeps running and everyone gets his lion’s share

even he who leaves his skeleton behind because it is above all for the good of the world

and a few cable lengths away from those who dig with their hands

others dig with their voices
like the Choir at the Croix du Cuivre
founded by Father Lamoral, taken over at his death by his assistant, the organist Joseph Kiwele
performing pieces of piercing sadness and of equally incandescent depth

because we must render to God what belongs to God

Lord, forgive us, open heaven and spread your grace

Lord, grant us a human face

Lord, accompany us in all of life’s trials

mixture of silky blues depicting everyday life or finding its paroxysm in nature

song of the mine
song of melting
song of the forge
song of the return to the village
song of the elephant hunt
song of the paddlers, 1st part
song of the paddlers, 2nd part

—Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Posted in Public Exhibition
Excerpted from the documenta 14: Daybook