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The Panorama of Congo – Unrolling the Past with Virtual Reality


Throughout their history, Panoramas have been serving imperialist propaganda. The Panorama of Congo was one such case. Commissioned to the Belgian painters Alfred Bastien and Paul Mathieu for the Ghent International Exhibition in 1913. The painting, which was circular and measured 115 meters in length and 14 meters in height, aimed to generate interest in the Belgian colony amongst young people. By portraying the Congo as an African Eden, it was meant to erase the atrocities that had been committed against the Congolese people in the so-called ‘Congo Free State’ (1885-1908), which was the private property of King Leopold II. For all its controversy, the Panorama du Congo was forgotten in museum storages for almost a century.

Panorama of the Congo. Unravelling the past with virtual reality.
Temporary exhibition
25 February – 16 June 2024
Allosaurus Room | Museum of Natural History Lisboa
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This exhibition is the outcome of a research project (CONGO VR – FilmEU RIT) that photographed and unrolled the Panorama of Congo to reinterpret it in Virtual Reality through its violent historical context and interventions by artists from the Congolese diaspora such as Kongo Astronauts (Eléonore Hellio & Michel Ekeba), Deogracias Kihalu, Lukah Katangila, Hadassa Ngamba and Castélie Yalombo. The painting is part of the collection of the War Heritage Institute. The exhibition seeks to bring the Panorama of Congo into the debates on decolonization and decolonial thinking, raising questions related to colonial heritage, memory and identity.

The research project Congo VR – Decolonising the Panorama of Congo: A Virtual Heritage Artistic Research is one of the projects funded by FILMEU RIT – Research | Innovation | Transformation project, European Union GRANT NUMBER: 101035820 H2020-IBA-SwafS-Support-2-2020.

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