Lumumba in the Arts

Edited by Matthias De Groof

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Edited volume - paperback

"Art reminds us of the impossibility of his death and leaves us horrified every time one remembers the tragedy.", Matthias De Groof, editor 'Lumumba in the Arts'

"Er is geen enkele kunstvorm die ontsnapt aan de figuur van Lumumba." Herbekijk het interview met Matthias De Groof over 'Lumumba in the Arts'!

Léon Tsambu (Université de Kinshasa) parle de Lumumba en musique (RFI, 17-01-2021)

Lumumba as a symbol of decolonisation and as an icon in the arts

It is no coincidence that a historical figure such as Patrice Emery Lumumba, independent Congo’s first prime minister, who was killed in 1961, has lived in the realm of the cultural imaginary and occupied an afterlife in the arts. After all, his project remained unfinished and his corpse unburied. The figure of Lumumba has been imagined through painting, photography, cinema, poetry, literature, theatre, music, sculpture, fashion, cartoons and stamps, and also through historiography and in public space. No art form has been able to escape and remain indifferent to Lumumba. Artists observe the memory and the unresolved suffering that inscribed itself both upon Lumumba’s body and within the history of Congo. If Lumumba – as an icon – lives on today, it is because the need for decolonisation does as well.

Rather than seeking to unravel the truth of actual events surrounding the historical Lumumba, this book engages with his representations. What is more, it considers every historiography as inherently embedded in iconography. Film scholars, art critics, historians, philosophers, and anthropologists discuss the rich iconographic heritage inspired by Lumumba. Furthermore, Lumumba in the Arts offers unique testimonies by a number of artists who have contributed to Lumumba's polymorphic iconography, such as Marlene Dumas, Luc Tuymans, Raoul Peck, and Tshibumba Kanda Matulu, and includes contributions by such highly acclaimed scholars as Johannes Fabian, Bogumil Jewsiewicky, and Elikia M’Bokolo.

Contributors: Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda (artist), Karen Bouwer (University of San Francisco), Véronique Bragard (UCLouvain), Piet Defraeye (University of Alberta), Matthias De Groof (scholar/filmmaker), Isabelle de Rezende (independent scholar), Marlene Dumas (artist), Johannes Fabian (em., University of Amsterdam), Rosario Giordano (Università della Calabria), Idesbald Goddeeris (KU Leuven), Gert Huskens (ULB), Robbert Jacobs (artist), Bogumil Jewsiewicki (em., Université Laval), Tshibumba Kanda Matulu (artist), Elikia M’Bokolo (EHESS), Christopher L. Miller (Yale University), Pedro Monaville (NYU), Raoul Peck (artist), Pierre Petit (ULB), Mark Sealy (Autograph ABP), Julien Truddaïu (CEC), Léon Tsambu (University of Kinshasa), Jean Omasombo Tshonda (Africa Museum), Luc Tuymans (artist), Mathieu Zana Etambala (AfricaMuseum)

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

Introduction by Matthias De Groof – The Iconography of Patrice Emery Lumumba


Isabelle de Rezende – History as Spectacle

Jean Omasombo Tshonda – Lumumba, a Never-ending Tragedy and the Unfulfilled Mourning Process of Colonisation

Pedro Monaville – A History of Glory and Dignity: Patrice Lumumba in Historical Imagination and Postcolonial Genealogies

Christopher L. Miller – Patrice Lumumba and the Past Conditional: The Virtual Reality of a Martyr

Elikia M’Bokolo, interviewed by Julien Truddaïu & Matthias De Groof – The History of Patrice Lumumba’s Historiography



Matthias De Groof – Lumumba in Cinema
Raoul Peck – It’s About the Image
Karen Bouwer – Lumumba entre deux genres: Peck’s Filmic Diptych
Rosario Giordano – The Masks of the Savage: Lumumba and the Independence of the Congo
Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda, interviewed by Matthias De Groof – Imagining Lumumba

Piet Defraeye – Lumumba on Stage: X Times a Murder

Mark Sealy – Picturing Lumumba: Framed in Colonial Time

Mathieu Zana Etambala – Tributes to Patrice Lumumba in the Poetry of the American Continent, 1961-1966

Véronique Bragard – Between Communicative and Cultural Memory: The Figure of Lumumba as Decolonial Counterpoint in Nicolas Pitz’s Comics Les Jardins du Congo (2013)

Léon Tsambu – The Figurative Representation of Lumumba in Popular Music
Gert Huskens and Idesbald Goddeeris – Lumumba in the Hood: The Legacy of Patrice Lumumba in Rap Music since 1990

Bogumil Jewsiewicki – A Congolese Hero to the Oppressed Peoples of the World: Lumumba, from Christlike Martyr to Guide for the Future
Tshibumba Kanda Matulu and Johannes Fabian – Conversations
Marlene Dumas and Luc Tuymans, interviewed by Matthias De Groof – My Pauline and Your Patrice

Public space

Pierre Petit – Official Miniatures: The Figure of Patrice Lumumba in the Global and the National Contexts
Julien Truddaïu – Representing Lumumba (1956-1961): The Twists and Turns of Belgian Colonial Propaganda
Robbert Jacobs – Down Lumumba Lane
Piet Defraeye – Lumumba’s Bike: A Rhizomatic Walk in the Park

Epilogue by Matthias De Groof – Shilatembo


Format: Edited volume - paperback

Size: 285 × 195 × 35 mm

464 pages

3 colour sections

ISBN: 9789462701748

Publication: January 17, 2020

Languages: English

Stock item number: 133016

Matthias De Groof is a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the University of Antwerp. He has held visiting fellow appointments at the New York University, the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in Finland, and the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence of the Bayreuth University in Germany.

“No single form of art seems to escape Lumumba” (3). This powerful statement sums up the ambitious and significantly rich project led by Matthias de Groof and the contributors to Lumumba in the Arts. In a profound and well-articulated reflection, this book engages in a rigorous dialogue (or marriage) between historiography and iconography. The dynamics that structure this uneasy pairing, in a pendulum movement of mutual influence, far from tension-free, perfectly suit a global and historical figure such as Lumumba, who is at the same time both admired and hated. Alongside real images are fictitious ones, reflecting joy, dignity, and violence, which are all open to debate. From Lumumba as a subject and as an icon, it is possible to extract the methodological and analytical challenges in historical narratives and in the formation of collective and popular conscience all around the world. Rare are the political figures who are able to inspire such exhaustive artistic creation. - Elisabeth Dikizeko, African Studies Review, 2023,


Richly illustrated, the book is the first substantial English language publication to consider the representation of Lumumba across the arts. (...) As a broad survey, 'Lumumba in the Arts' offers an invaluable starting point for anyone interested in representations of Lumumba and his endurance across the arts. (...) The edited collection does incredibly well in terms of bringing together contributors from around the world, most notably Congolese voices. Gabriella Nugent, African Arts 2022; 55 (4): 95–96. doi:

On a donc là une recension importante, sinon exhaustive, de la représentation de Lumumba en héros de la lutte anti-coloniale.
Marc Lenot, Blog Lunettes Rouges sur l'art, 8 Mars 2020
Congolisation, un Festival pour décoloniser le regard
Radio Libres, Ensemble

Aan Lumumba is alles onaf, dus overleeft hij in de kunst
Matthias De Groof maakte in een nieuw boek 'Lumumba in the Arts' een vrij compleet en genuanceerd overzicht van hoe hij bleef verderleven in schilderijen, strips, films, theater, literatuur, maar ook in postzegels of monumenten. [...] In de kiem gesmoorde beloften en gefnuikte hoop zijn de dominante thema’s in deze iconografie, met een ondertoon van verlies en rouw. 
Marc Reynebeau, De Standaard, vrijdag 17 januari 2020

Lumumba is bij sterven nog maar 35, zijn politieke carrière aanzienlijk jonger. Hij zal desondanks uitgroeien tot een symbool voor de Afrikaanse vrijheidsstrijd, en in veel gekoloniseerde landen komen te staan voor de strijd tegen het imperialisme. Hij zal ook uitgroeien tot een pan-Afrikaans icoon voor Black Liberation-bewegingen over de hele wereld. Het boek 'Lumumba in the Arts' (2020), een grote bundeling essays en teksten samengesteld door filmwetenschapper Matthias de Groof, gaat over dit gedeelte van zijn nalatenschap. Het behandelt Lumumba niet zozeer als historische persoon, maar gaat over de manier waarop hij als icoon en symbool in verschillende kunstvormen wordt gerepresenteerd, en daarin steeds opnieuw wordt uitgevonden.
Grâce Ndjako, de Nederlandse Boekengids, september 2021
Cela n’empêche pas que l’association de contributions d’historiens, de critiques, de cinéastes et d’artistes (dont Marlene Dumas, Robbert Jacobs et Luc Tuymans) rende la lecture du livre très stimulante. La
diversité des perspectives y est riche. Au final, le collectif ne construit pas une image unie de son sujet. Comme Mattthias De Groof le souligne au contraire dans son introduction, cette polyphonie, avec les dissonances qui lui sont propres, est au coeur de l’ouvrage pour laisser apparaître la figure de Lumumba dans une multiplicité d’approches et de perspectives.
Lotte Arndt, « Matthias De Groof, Lumumba in the Arts », Critique d’art [En ligne], 4 juni 2021, URL : ; DOI :

Lumumba is vooral na de jaren zestig uitgegroeid tot een iconische figuur, vergelijkbaar met vrijheidsstrijders als Che Guevara en Martin Luther King. De Groof stelt zich tot taak om de diverse iconografie in kaart te brengen. [...] Het verzamelde materiaal en de diversiteit in de iconografie van Lumumba in het tweede gedeelte zijn overrompelend.
Dirk Mertens, De Witte Raaf, Editie 209 januari-februari 2021,

'Lumumba in the Arts', edited by Matthias De Groof, provides multidisciplinary analyses of Patrice Lumumba’s life and legacies through a remarkable range of art and media in a beautifully illustrated volume that will benefit both scholars of Congo and undergraduates alike. This is a momentous book in every sense of the word, totaling twenty-two chapters written by twenty-five contributors in addition to an extensive gallery section, and numerous photos, poems, paintings, and songs. Part of what sets this work apart from previous analyses of Lumumba and his legacies is that it includes contributions from artists as well as scholars. Established scholars of Congo and Lumumba, such as Jean Omasombo, Karen Bouwer, Johannes Fabian, Bogumil Jewsiewicki, and Elikia M’Bokolo, make important contributions, but we also hear from artists like Tshibumba Kanda Matulu, and Luc Tuymans, as well as perhaps Lumumba’s most famous biographer, filmmaker Raoul Peck.
Joshua M. Castillo. H-Africa, HNet Reviews. May, 2021. URL:

"voorbeeldig geïllustreerde boek 'Lumumba in the Arts', samengesteld door de Antwerpse filmwetenschapper Matthias De Groof. [...] dat prachtig het midden houdt tussen een diepgravende academische studie en een catalogus voor een hopelijk ooit te maken multidisciplinaire tentoonstelling."
Buelens, G., BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 135(2). >
Der interdisziplinäre Sammelband bietet eine der umfang- und facettenreichsten Sammlungen an kulturellen Dokumenten, Künstlerinterviews und wissenschaftlichen Aufsätzen, die sich mit der Ikone Patrice Lumumba beschäftigen, und leistet einen wertvollen Beitrag zur afrikanistischen IkonographieForschung. Dem Herausgeber ist es dabei außerordentlich gut gelungen, namhafte Beitragende aus verschiedenen kulturwissenschaftlichen Disziplinen in einem sehr anschaulichen Opus magnum zu vereinen.


By discussing the rich iconographic heritage bequeathed to us by Lumumba and by reflecting on the different ways in which he is being remembered, we do not only answer the two questions that guided our work, but hope equally to contribute to this imagery by making his absence more present, though without laying his legacy to rest.
Matthias De Groof, Africa Is a Country, July 2020

"Not on a filmmaker, yet centered around one historical figure, "Lumumba in the Arts" engages with the iconography of independent Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. Next to his representation in public space, theatre, photography, poetry, comics, music and painting, the publication includes a large part on cinema with five texts, written by, among others, filmmaker Raoul Peck and Matthias De Groof – a Belgian film scholar/filmmaker who edited this anthology and also interviewed painters Luc Tuymans and Marlene Dumas for it."
Sabzian, Ruben Demasure,