Colonial Legacies

Contemporary Lens-Based Art and the Democratic Republic of Congo

Gabriella Nugent

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Monograph - paperback

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The colonial past in photography and video art of contemporary artists born or based in the Congo

In Colonial Legacies, Gabriella Nugent examines a generation of contemporary artists born or based in the Congo whose lens-based art attends to the afterlives and mutations of Belgian colonialism in postcolonial Congo. Focusing on three artists and one artist collective, Nugent analyses artworks produced by Sammy Baloji, Michèle Magema, Georges Senga and Kongo Astronauts, each of whom offers a different perspective onto this history gleaned from their own experiences. In their photography and video art, these artists rework existent images and redress archival absences, making visible people and events occluded from dominant narratives. Their artworks are shown to offer a re-reading of the colonial and immediate post-independence past, blurring the lines of historical and speculative knowledge, documentary and fiction. Nugent demonstrates how their practices create a new type of visual record for the future, one that attests to the ramifications of colonialism across time.

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).

IAS Book Launch: Colonial Legacies - 26 April 2022, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

“Art history has been undergoing a process of reckoning, from calls to address the legacies of slavery and colonialism to concomitant surveys of decolonsiation published in some of the discipline’s foremost journals.”,
Gabriella Nugent


Chapter 1. Mining Lubumbashi: Sammy Baloji’s Mémoire 
Chapter 2. The Maintenance of Mobutu’s Zaire: Michèle Magema’s Oyé Oyé 
Chapter 3. The Image of Lumumba: Georges Senga’s Une vie après la mort 
Chapter 4. From Kinshasa to the Moon: Kongo Astronauts 
Coda. Between History and individual histories 
Colour Plate Gallery

Format: Monograph - paperback

Size: 230 × 170 mm

232 pages

Illustrated, colour section (32 pp.)

ISBN: 9789462702998

Publication: December 15, 2021

Languages: English

Stock item number: 145766

Gabriella Nugent is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Art History and World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia.

Il comble un manque, ouvre et éduque notre regard, tant et si bien qu’on peut le considérer comme une lecture indispensable à la compréhension des tendances qui prévalent actuellement chez les vidéastes et les photo- graphes congolais. G. Nugent a choisi les œuvres commentées avec beau- coup d’à-propos, elle les analyse avec finesse et intelligence, et établit entre elles des liens pertinents. L’érudition dont elle fait montre n’exclut pas un style limpide, propre à captiver son lecteur. Nous ne pouvons donc qu’es- pérer que ce livre sera traduit en français afin de toucher un plus vaste public en Europe et en Afrique. - Thérèse De Raedt, Études littéraires africaines, Number 55, 2023, p. 227–229,


Colonial Legacies... makes a compelling argument about how art provides a way to open discussions about the complex and lasting effects of colonial violence... Colonial Legacies invites readers to pay close attention to the ‘Futures that never arrived, but were once imagined’ and how they continue to ‘glimmer’ (145) in the works of contemporary visual artists, which, as Nugent writes, help us to see both the past and present anew (154). - Kylie Thomas, bmgn — Low Countries Historical Review | Volume 139 (2024) | review 14,


The real heart of this book, which makes an interesting contribution to the study of a highly dynamic contemporary Congolese art scene, lies with its delicate unpacking of the past futures the art under discussion renders visible. - Sarah Van Beurden, H-France Review Vol. 23 (August 2023), No. 136,


"... the book’s forte lays in the author’s careful method of close reading. Nugent rightfully prides herself for her attention to visual details. She reads artworks both along and against the grain, by zooming in on images, paying attention to their materiality, tracking their transformations and alterations, looking at the margins. Her book’s argumentative power also comes from its careful consideration of the historical scholarship on the Congo, as well as its rich theoretical apparatus. These foundations enable Nugent to contribute both to Congolese studies and to current scholarly conversations, on questions including visuality, memory, violence, technopolitics, and the body ... the book offers a highly stimulating study of critical artistic interventions ... It will appeal to readers interested in Congolese history, contemporary art, photography, and the making of new archives for the present."
Pedro Monaville, African Arts (2023) 56 (2): 93–95,


This book constitutes an outstanding contribution to the study of contemporary African art and historiography of the DRC. In its painstaking analysis of past and present images, it offers a timely analysis of Congolese culture and politics.
Pierre-Philippe Fraiture, French Studies, 2023, knad010,