National Museum of Natural History presents Sammy Baloji.The Beautiful Time photography exhibition

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has opened a temporary exhibition, “The Beautiful Time: Photography by Sammy Baloji,” which evokes the memory of Congolese workers whose labor during the colonial period created a once-vibrant copper mining industry in the Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sammy Baloji, Untitled, 2006. Digital C-Print. 11 x 14.2 in. Images courtesy Museum for African Art

Baloji’s large photographic collages layer black-and-white archival photographs of Congolese mine workers from the colonial period (1890s–1960) over color photographs of panoramic landscapes of the contemporary ruins of the copper industry’s factories and mines.

“Sammy’s photographs are not nostalgic celebrations of ‘The Beautiful Time,’ a phrase we often hear the older generation use when referring to the golden age of the colonial mining industry,” said Congolese writer Patrick Mudekereza. “Rather, Sammy’s pictures speak to today and imply a failure by our leaders to provide our people with a means to create a more beautiful time than before.”

Baloji’s work speaks to history and memory, home and loss, and labor and wealth in contemporary Congo. But as Mary Jo Arnoldi, curator of African Ethnology at the museum said, “These same themes go well beyond the Congo and resonate throughout the continent, especially among Africa’s youth.” The exhibition was organized by the Museum for African Art in New York and will be on view through Jan. 6, 2013, in the African Voices Focus Gallery. For more information about the exhibition, visit:

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