In PeoPL, Laura Nsengiyumva takes a critical view of the place held by King Leopold II in public spaces in Brussels.
More generally, the work addresses his status in the Belgian conscience, official festivals, folklore and even our language. In the young nation of Belgium, without much history or identity, the figure of Leopold II was used to evoke a sense of patriotism. His megalomaniac beautification work in Brussels produced the illusion of a rich, civilised country. Leopold II was nicknamed our ‘Builder King’. But he drew his financial resources from our former colony, which he cruelly devastated.
Secrecy and silence reigned for generations, and the colonial lies were passed on from generation to generation. Critical voices were stifled to the advantage of patriotic historiography. Even today, these lies feed a dissatisfaction within society and the idea that progress is only possible through repression. It makes a mockery of our empathy and exacerbates the fragmentation or crumbling of our fragile society. This ‘colonial denial’ is beginning to crack, however, thanks to the work of many citizens who are working to deconstruct this colonial myth. This installation interprets a process that has been going on for a long time. In that sense it is also an act of thanks and a nod in the direction of all the activists and individuals who are contributing to this deconstruction. PeoPL is the dream of a turnaround and an ode to willpower, ‘the decolonisation of our minds’.