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From poetry to action

"The Long Hand" - Sammy Baloji

03.06.2022 – 15.00
Antwerp, Belgium

Jean Kabuta presents a kasàlà in tree languages for the inauguration of the work of art
« The Long Hand ».

The Antwerp public art collection (Kunst in de Stad) proudly presents a new permanent commission by artist Sammy Baloji. Invited to create a work for Antwerp’s public space, the artist was immediately drawn to the river Scheldt, acknowledging it as the gateway between ‘here’ and ‘there’, the city and the world, but also, more poignantly, between Belgium and Baloji’s native Congo.

On the work

One important reference in the conception of the artwork is Paul Panda Farnana (1888-1930), who as a young child was brought to Belgium from Congo, became the first Congolese to graduate from a Belgian higher education institute, and went on to be a leading voice in the pan-African movement and the fight against European colonial rule.

Another reference of import is a quote by former mayor of Antwerp, Lode Craeybeckx, who said: “A citizen of Antwerp need only put their hand in de river to be connected to the world.”

The bronze sculpture takes its shape from the ‘lukasa’ (meaning “the long hand”), a cultural device used in the Luba culture of Southern Congo. Lukasa are memory boards and a vital part of the oral tradition of historiography and storytelling of the Luba people. Traditionally, they are made out of wood and ornately embellished with abstract carvings and inlayed with stones, shells or pieces of metal. The lukasa is used in ceremonies where Luba political history and mythology is orally transmitted by a so-called “man of memory” who would hold the lukasa in one hand, and trace the lines and encrusted jewels with the other, using them as nodes of information.

who would hold the lukasa in one hand, and trace the lines and encrusted jewels with the other, using them as nodes of information. and form a line that mimics the sea route leading from Antwerp to Muanda, Congo’s main port city. The platform the sculpture stands on is intended as a space for social gathering and exchange.

Sammy Baloji’s work introduces the act of remembering and (hi)story telling into our shared public space. But is not all (monumental) public art at the service of memory and commemoration? In line with the ambiguous nature of traditional lukasa, Baloji’s contemporary reinterpretation holds no fixed narrative. It is an invitation to convene and converse, to recall, to remember, and to remember differently.


Location: Waterfront, Scheldekaai Zuid – Cockerillkaai (next to the Zuidersluis), 2000 Antwerp

Festive inauguration: 3 June 2022 at 3 p.m.

Supported by the Flemish government.