Students of the world: Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese educated elite, and the global 1960s. A lecture by Pedro Monaville

16 February 2018
19:30–21:00

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Part of the Garage Field Research project Sammy Baloji: Research on Soviet influence in Congo, this lecture looks at the posthumous influence of Patrice Lumumba on 1960s international student activism.

The assassination of Patrice Lumumba on January 17, 1961 was an event with worldwide repercussions. The young Congolese Prime Minister had became a symbol of the anti-imperialist struggle for his staunch denunciation of Belgian colonial exploitation. When the news of his assassination came out, thousands of people around the world, from Harlem to Jakarta, took to the streets to express their anger and denounce the murder of an icon.

This lecture looks at the impact of Lumumba’s afterlife among Congolese students in the 1960s. As the educated elite of the new nation, students occupied a privilege position in the Congolese national imagination. They used that position to try to impose their own vision of the country’s future. Lumumba’s assassination was a pivotal moment for them, becoming a collective and personal landmark in the biographies of a generation of student activists. The worldwide stature of Lumumba as a martyr of African decolonization was key in his posthumous popularity in Congolese universities. Because of their association with the figure of Lumumba, young Congolese received support from new allies around the world, including scholarships to continue their education in the Soviet Union or the United States. The international communion around Lumumba’s name was sometimes the result of productive misunderstandings about the real nature of the events that unfolded in Congo. Nonetheless, Lumumba’s legacy played a crucial role in transnational mediations throughout the 1960s and made possible the circulation of new political repertoires among Congolese students. Fifty years after 1968, it is time to seriously consider the history of 1960s student activism in Africa, and move away from a restrictive focus on youth protests in places like Prague, Paris, Berlin or Berkeley.

ABOUT THE LECTURER

 

Pedro Monaville is assistant professor of history at New York University, Abu Dhabi. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2013. His research interests include the history of decolonization, political imagination, student movements, higher education, and state violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has also published studies on memory work and postcolonial history writing.

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

Sammy Baloji: Research on Soviet influence in Congo

The research project initiated by artist Sammy Baloji (b. 1978, Lubumbashi) explores the transformation of the Belgian Congo into the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1964, Patrice Lumumba’s role in the country’s struggle for independence, and Joseph-Désiré Mobutu’s dictatorship, which lasted more than thirty years. Looking at how communism influenced Congolese art and culture during Mobutu’s rule, the research draws parallels between two historical periods: the political perturbations in the eastern European socialist republics after World War II and the Zairianization movement of the 1970s, which became state ideology under Mobutu. Baloji’s analysis of Soviet influence is not reduced to politics: it includes a study of cultural and lifestyle changes during Zairianization, with its ambitious goal to revive traditional African culture. The research in Moscow started with finding information about Soviet broadcasting in Africa as well as about Congolese students who received their higher education in Moscow.

ABOUT FIELD RESEARCH

Generated by the interests of artists, curators, and writers working around the world, each Field Research project re-evaluates Russian-oriented issues in a global context, prioritizing central themes in Garage Programs, which includes the Russian avant-garde, historical periods relevant to understanding conditions today such as the 1960s and the 1990s, and the post-Post Soviet condition. 

Each research project lasts one to three years and has no predetermined outcome. There are regular public presentations charting the progress of each initiative from the point of view of the participating artists and curators, as well as seminars with specialists that provide a broader context for each initiative. Finally, it is hoped that the body of accumulated research will contribute to the development of a new artwork, film, exhibition, archive, database, lecture or publication.

HOW TO TAKE PART

Free admission with advance registration.  

The Lecture is in English with simultaneous translation into Russian.

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