Biennale of Sydney

Sammy Baloji

Sammy Baloji, Kasala - The Slaughterhouse of Dreams or the First Human, Bende’s Error, 2019. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Cockatoo Island. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from the Flemish Ministry of Culture. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

Sammy Baloji

Born 1978 in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo
Lives and works in Brussels, Belgium and Rome, Italy


Raised in Lubumbashi, Sammy Baloji was sensitised to the colonial history and postcolonial decline of the once-prosperous mining region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which Chinese and Western companies exploit today. Colliding reality and representation, his multi-media installations expose past tensions and present entanglements. He mines the archive, traces social history in architecture and landscapes, and probes the body as a site of memory and witness to operations of power.

Sammy Baloji’s work creates new narratives through a re-shaping of archival and contemporary images, often reflecting upon colonial legacies that resonate through the present. For this project he re-imagines and draws upon two pre-colonial cultural forms, the kasala and lusaka, to critically approach the imposition of identities during the colonial era. Both are mnemotechnical devices (memory devices), used by the Luba peoples to whom the artist belongs. The kasala, a form of praise poetry often chanted, here becomes a fictional narrative realised in performance and sculptural form. This allows a blending of historical and contemporary facts with the artists own genealogy to consider the mythological and political ‘genesis’ of the Luba peoples and the filiations of family and social relations that did not correspond to colonial logics.

Exhibited at

Exhibited Artwork

Sammy Baloji, Kasala - The Slaughterhouse of Dreams or the First Human, Bende’s Error, 2019-20, hunting horn with Congolese scarifications by the coppersmith Guido Clabots, Dinant Belgium, 55 x 60 x 25 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Cockatoo Island

Sammy Baloji, Kasala - The Slaughterhouse of Dreams or the First Human, Bende’s Error, 2019, mirror with photo of Hans Himmelheber and x-ray tomograms of a power figure acquired by him; UV print on glass, brass frame, 204 x 83 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Cockatoo Island

Sammy Baloji, Kasala - The Slaughterhouse of Dreams or the First Human, Bende’s Error, 2019, mirror with photo of Hans Himmelheber and x-ray tomograms of a power figure acquired by him; UV print on glass, brass frame, 204 x 83 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Cockatoo Island

Sammy Baloji, Kasala - The Slaughterhouse of Dreams or the First Human, Bende’s Error, 2019, mixed-media installation. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Cockatoo Island