Palestine is the last colony. When we talk about occupation, we should actually talk about colonisation: territory acquired for a surplus population, the locals as cheap labour, stealing of resources (water), the settler mythology of founding fathers, full control of all entrance and exits (customs, taxes). In order for this place to build any perspective, it needs to be decolonized.
In his introduction to the Congo, Paul Kerstens turned the thing around. He said we should not talk about the Belgian colonisation of the Congo, but about occupation.
He said that in the Belgian mindset colonisation is a void, but we all remember (even when we’re too young to have effectively lived it) the Geman occupation of Belgium during the World Wars.
The first time I came to Congo i was struck by the lack of anger about Belgian colonisation. It probably took the life of 10 million Congolese. That would mean it was a genocide bigger than the Shoah. When Congolese were angry it was about the decolonisation: all the attempts to keep control of the resources; with the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first elected Congolese president, and the endless support for dictator Mobutu as a result.
With these burdens of history: how to get out of the double binds of guilt business and help industry? How can we decolonize our minds? How to enter in a decolonized relationship (cause equality is a phantasm). For me the answer came from Jozef Wouters (after a discussion on the text about Public Space by Wim Cuyvers from the book BRAKIN): "What i can do is to be as specific as possible about my need, to turn it into a space (to materialise it) and trust that the other is also doing that, and then embrace the issuing conflict as a space for communication and negotiation." The first task in the Kinshasa-LAB was about ‘start up an economy’, and the encouragement from Jozef W.: start from a place of weakness. Put yourself in a situation of need (and not the other that you imagine you can help). That sounds like a good way out of never equal exchange programmes.


1space website contribution
eyad houssami
16 january 2016

“If we take a step back and look at Leopold at this moment we can imagine him the political equivalent of an ambitious theatrical producer. He has organizational talent and the public’s good will … He has a special kind of capital: the great public relations power of the throne itself. He has a script: the dream of a colony … Stage and star have appeared, and the play can begin.”

-Adam Hochschild in King Leopold’s Ghost (Mariner Books, 1999), p. 46

Do theatre makers dream of colonies? To produce plays is … to colonize?

Decolonization was a theme in 1space conversations last year. One of the key reasons that I am able to participate is my own colonized genealogy: Syrian under imperial French rule.

Maybe multinationalism is one of the elite by-products of empire. Maybe in activating that –ism, I cultivate its legacy.

The project has certainly prompted me to read and learn more about societies that have and continue to experience the cruelest maw of empire. Many of my collaborators carry those experiences in their bodies.

But when I read the above passage from King Leopold’s Ghost in anticipation of joining the lab in Kinshasa (which I unfortunately could not attend since all efforts within and without the country to obtain the visa were fruitless), I couldn’t help but wondering:

Are we all King Leopold?