Battling statues enter into dialogue at the Gouvernorat du Haut-Katanga




memorialization, discursive analysis, Michel Foucault, ethnic cleansing, Pierre Nora, moments, presentism, Democratic Republic of the Congo


In this article I analyze the political bifocal discourse that the display of Congolese political figures reveals at the Gouvernorat du Haut-Katanga (State House of the Province of Haut-Katanga) in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo that was inaugurated in 2018. The display reflects the potency of a discourse dictated by a period of time’s circumstances reflective of new ways of thinking. It is the performative self-affirmation focusing on the politics of proximity and not exclusively that of distanciation seen in its worst form in ethnic cleansing. Within the global atmosphere marked by public demonstrations heightened by the death of George Floyd (1973–2020) calling for the toppling of monuments honoring Robert E. Lee; Cecil Rhodes; George Colston’s in Bristol, England; King Leopold II in Belgium; honoring busts of King Leopold next to Doňa Beatriz Kimpa Vita’s; and Moïse Tshombe’s next to Patrice-Emery Lumumba’s, inevitably leads observers to question the arrangement. It articulates in plain sight a twofold political discourse positing, on one hand, its unitary aspiration, on the other hand, the uniqueness of the Katanga province with its strengths, its expectations, and its vulnerabilities. My analysis relies on Michel Foucault’s concept of discourse, on Pierre Nora’s notion of lieux de mémoire, and François Hartog’s idea of presentism. Hartog’s presentism accommodates an analytical exercise that uncovers a discourse of continuity allowed by the necessities of the present. Specific discursive elements become building blocks towards the aspiration to social stability reflected and re-articulated throughout the materiality and rationalizing of figural  representations. 


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Author Biography

Kasongo Mulenda Kapanga, Richmond University, Richmond, USA

Kasongo Mulenda Kapanga is professor of French and Francophone Studies in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia, USA.


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How to Cite

Kapanga, K. M. (2022). Battling statues enter into dialogue at the Gouvernorat du Haut-Katanga. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 59(3), 184–209.



Research articles