Accepted Paper:

Keeping the village at bay: Constructing the Congolese Bourgeois' image in the 1950s   

Author:

Sandrine Colard (INHA)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes to examine the opposition between urban and rural realms within the corpus of the photographic service of InforCongo (1945-1960), a state-sponsored propaganda agency of the Belgian Congo, and how it has influenced the Congolese bourgeois self-imaging and imagining.

Paper long abstract:

In the colonial Congo, the photographic self-definition of modern Africans was predicated on their sartorial, décor, and demeanor's remoteness from non-urban environments. Additionally, the severe control exerted on the Congolese's mobility made the itinerancy of African photographers within the country uneasy, and today only a handful of images testify to the existence of indigenous practices in rural areas of the Belgian Congo. As a result, the vast majority of depictions of rural inhabitants and settings were the products of European image-makers. This paper proposes to examine this opposition within the corpus of the photographic service of InforCongo (1945-1960), a state-sponsored propaganda agency. The catalogue of Inforcongo's photo-library divided its photographic items between natural sights and anthropological types on one side, and the cities, European actors and the new African bourgeoisie on the other. That bourgeoisie, the so-called class of évolués, was mainly portrayed by the Congolese photographer Joseph Makula on permanent assignment in Léopoldville, while his Belgian colleagues were free to travel around the country to bring back images of "traditional" societies and natural aspects. This paper wants to explore how this paucity of African-authored pictures of rural Congolese and the opposition between both realms encouraged by the colonial system have influenced the Congolese bourgeois self-imaging and imagining.

Panel P162
Photographs and Photographers in Africa Visual Entanglements of the Urban and the Rural