Exhibit B

4, 5, 7, 8, 9/05 – 19:00 + 19:45 + 21:15 + 22:00
6/05 – 16:30 + 17:15 + 18:45 + 19:30
NL / FR / EN
Hoog bezoek / Haute visite on 6/05 at 20:30

Often created in situ, Brett Bailey’s provocative shows question the power relationships governing our post-colonial world. Premiering in May in Brussels, the second part of his project entitled Exhibit is certain to make headlines. Exhibit B is an exhibition of human beings, in the image of the ethnographic dioramas and “human zoos” of the colonial era. In Gesù church – whose convent has been occupied for several years by the homeless – visitors are invited to discover a series of silent “tableaux vivants” retracing how the representation of the “black man” has evolved, from the noble savage of the Belgian Congo to today’s asylum seeker… Bailey calls on performers of African origin living in Belgium, exhibiting them accompanied by texts to create an incisive and moving journey through the history of stereotypes. According to him, we like differences to come to us wrapped up in familiar packaging. Exhibit B asks us to look at the other person before us.

Direction & design
Brett Bailey

Performed by
Anne-Céline Souma, Asanda Rilityana, Aurélie Lierman, Avril Nuuyoma, Bernadette Lusakalalu-Miezi, Berthe Tanwo Njole, Chris Nekongo, Christian Botale Molebo, Danny Muboti, Jessica Fanhan, Joseph Kusendila, Lambert Degbe, Marcellinus Swartbooi, Mamadou Bah, Michael Beukes, Muna Mussie

Production & Third World Bunfight management
Barbara Mathers

Production Brussels
Nadège Jibassia

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, KVS, Gesùkerk/Église Gesù

Third World Bunfight (Cape Town)

International production
UK Arts International (Worcester)

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, KVS (Brussels)

Supported by
Institut français

Thanks to
UK Arts International, KVS, Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika/Musée royal de l’Afrique centrale, Pierre Buyssens, Entrakt

Photo credits
AP.0.0.28466, collection RMCA Tervuren; anonymous photo, 1884; HP.1952.31.9, collection RMCA Tervuren; photo H.A. Shanu, no date

Back to top

Third World Bunfight

presents EXHIBIT B

created by Brett Bailey

An ‘exhibit’, in a criminal prosecution or a civil trial, is physical or documentary evidence brought before the jury. The artefact or document itself is presented for the jury's inspection. These exhibits in a legal case are often labelled Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C etc. to distinguish between them.

Ethnography and race

Human zoos were major events from the mid 19th century until the Second World War.

Tens of millions of Europeans and Americans flocked to these spectacles of colonial domination, where people from the non-Western world were exhibited in enclosures. De-contextualised and objectified, these ‘Savages’ were positioned just above animals on a continuum that placed the industrialised West at its magnificent apotheosis.

This was the heyday of racial classification. Anthropologists jostled to analyse these ‘Natives’, and to measure their skulls against those of ‘Caucasians’. Their findings ‘proved’ that the ‘primitives’ were of a lower evolutionary order, and were used as justification for colonising their land, destroying their cultures and reducing them to servitude.

Tens of thousands of skulls of the ancestors of the people of the free world are still held in the underground vaults of the museums and universities of their former colonial masters.

The Scramble for Africa

‘No false philanthropy or racial theory can convince sensible people that the preservation of a tribe of South Africa’s kaffirs… is more important to the future of mankind than the spread of the great European nations and the white race in general. Not until the native produces something of value in the service of the higher race does he gain any moral right to exist.’ Paul Rohrbach, German Thought in the World, (1912)

At the Conference of Berlin (1884-85) Africa was summarily divided among European powers. Several colonies were ratified, including German South West Africa (now Namibia), the French Congo (Republic of Congo), and King Leopold II’s Congo Free State (Democratic Republic of Congo). The Age of Empire was in full bloom. ‘A place in the sun’ brought with it national pride, global status, lebensraum, and wealth. Arising from 19th century evolutionary theory, the dominant imperial belief was that the extermination of the ‘inferior races’ was necessary for the cleansing of the world and the triumph of civilisation.

German South West Africa

In South West Africa the Herero and the Nama were two of the most centralised and populous peoples. Within 15 years the German colonial administration had ruthlessly and systematically colonised them and appropriated vast swathes of their territory and their cattle.

In 1904 the Herero struck back, but were defeated at the Battle of Waterberg. The German military governor issued an extermination order and tens of thousands of Herero perished of thirst in the desert or were hunted down and shot. In the forced labour camps set up after the war, rape and beatings were routine and thousands more Herero and Nama died of disease, exposure, starvation and exhaustion. The attempted annihilation of these people is acknowledged as the first genocide of the 20th century.

The Congo States

Belgium’s King Leopold II established the vast Congo Free State ostensibly as a philanthropic enterprise, to bring civilisation to the benighted African populace and to put an end to the local slave trade.

Behind this humanitarian veil the real game of plundering the territory’s natural resources (timber, minerals, ivory and especially rubber) was played out. The regime, upheld by the Force Publique, was founded on forced labour. Villagers were required to provide state officials and concession company representatives with set quotas of rubber and ivory. Violence and brutality were employed to maximise yields. Murder, rape, mutilation, flogging, the destruction of villages and hostage-taking of women and children were rampant.

Through a combination of disease, famine, slavery, suppression of rebellions and diminished birth rate, the death toll is variously estimated at between 5 and 13 million.

Seeing the huge profits Leopold II was reaping, officials across the Congo River in the French Congo soon adopted identical systems of exploitation with equally fatal consequences.

"Auschwitz was the modern industrial application of a policy of extermination on which European world domination had long since rested."Sven Lindqvist in Exterminate all the Brutes (1992)

A century later we continue to live in a world torn by notions of Racial Difference and Otherness.

This exhibition of live Africans provides an opportunity for you to gaze at a variety of people from different parts of the continent, to have a good hard look at Difference. And maybe to reach some kind of understanding.

The venue for Exhibit B in Brussels is the Gesù Church (1865) situated in Sint-Joost-ten-Node, the poorest community in Belgium. Brett Bailey chose this location because of its association with asylum seekers and other marginalised people.

Since 2009 over one hundred homeless people, asylum seekers, Roma, children and squatters have lived behind the church in the monastery, which is in a deplorable state.

The Kunstenfestivaldesarts would like to thank the owner of the building, Pierre Buyssens, and the management organisation Entrakt (represented by Dries Vanneste) for the use of the church.

The Namibian choir that sings in Exhibit B has been put together and trained by Marcellinus Swartbooi, a Windhoek-based composer, who has arranged this collection of traditional songs of lamentation sung in Nama, Otjiherero, Oshiwambo, Tswana and isiXhosa.

Third World Bunfight (TWB) presents the diverse works of South African artist Brett Bailey: theatre productions, installations, opera, house music shows and site-specific performances. His idiosyncratic, iconoclastic works focus a probing lens on the world we live in, with particular emphasis on the post-colonial landscape of Africa, and relations between Africa and the West.

Managed by Barbara Mathers, TWB has maintained its position at the forefront of South African performance throughout its sixteen-year history, and has a strong international presence. The company has a mission to create groundbreaking, multi-layered pieces that explore the beauty, the wonder, the darkness and the tragedy of our world; works that foreground issues, stories and situations that are all too often overlooked, suppressed or ignored.

Back to top

Brett Bailey is a playwright, designer, director and festival curator and the artistic director of Third World Bunfight. He has worked throughout South Africa as well as in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Haiti, the UK and Europe. His acclaimed iconoclastic dramas, which question the dynamics of the post-colonial world, include Big Dada, Verdi’s macbEth, iMUMBO JUMBO and Orfeus. His performance installations include Blood Diamonds: Terminal and Exhibits A & B. He directed the opening show at the World Summit on Arts and Culture in Johannesburg (2009) and from 2006 to 2011 the opening shows at the Harare International Festival of the Arts. He was curator of South Africa’s only public arts festival, Infecting the City, in Cape Town from 2008 to 2011, and was chair of the jury of the 2011 Prague Quadrennial. He is currently on the jury for the International Theatre Institute’s (ITI) Music Theatre NOW Awards. His work is performed throughout Europe, Australia and Africa, and has won several awards, including a gold medal for design at the Prague Quadrennial (2007).

Back to top