Letter from Afonso I of Kongo

Sammy Baloji

Letter from Afonso I of Kongo to Manuel I of Portugal Regarding the Burning of the ‘Great House of Idols’.


Afonso I (1456-1543) was the second Christian monarch of the Kongo king- dom. Probably born in the seventh cen- tury and at its peak in the fifteenth, this immense kingdom would correspond today, along the Atlantic coast, to the north of Angola, to almost the entire Republic of Congo, to the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo and to part of Gabon; to the east, it extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the west of the Kwango River and, to the south, from the Congo River to the Loge River. It was during the reign of Manuel I (1469-1521) that Portuguese expansion towards the Americas and the Indies began. In the 1480s, the first commer- cial and first commercial and diplomatic relations with the Kongo kingdom. In 1509, the advent of Afonso I sealed an alliance with with Manuel I, in the name of the propagation of the Christian faith. This agreement, where each monarch finds his interest, is very quickly enamelled of conflicts with the Portuguese present in the Congo.


Sammy Baloji (born in 1978 in Lubumbashi, RD Congo) lives and works between Lubumbashi and Brussels. Since September 2019, he has been conducting an art research doctorate at the Sint Lucas Antwerpen School of Arts called “Contemporary Kasala and Lukasa: towards a Reconfiguration of Identity and Geopolitics”.

Since 2005, Sammy Baloji has been exploring the memory and history of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His work is a continual search of the cultural, architectural and industrial patrimony of the region of Katanga, and it questions the impact of Belgian colonisation.

He has been awarded the title Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and has received a number of grants, awards and distinctions, particularly at the African Photography Encounters of Bamako and the Dakar Biennale. He is also a winner of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. In 2019-2020, he worked as an artist-in-residence of the French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici. Since 2018, he has been teaching at the Sommerakademie of Salzburg. In 2008, Sammy Baloji co-founded the Picha Encounters/Lubumbashi Biennale. mong his recent monographic exhibitions are Sammy Baloji, Other TalesS, Lund Konsthall and Aarhus Kunsthal (2020); Congo, Fragments d’une histoire, Le Point du Jour, Cherbourg (2019); A Blueprint for Toads and Snakes, Framer Framed, Amsterdam (2018); Sven Augustijnen & Sammy Baloji, Museumcultuur Strombeek (2018); Urban Now: City Life in Congo, Sammy Baloji and Filip de Boeck, The Power Plant, Toronto and WIELS, Brussels (2016-2017); and Hunting and Collecting, Mu.ZEE Kunstmuseum aan zee, Ostend (2014). He recently participated in the Biennale of Sydney (2020), documenta 14 (Cassel/Athènes, 2017), the Biennale de Lyon (2015), the Venice Biennale (2015), and the Festival Photoquai at the Musée du Quai Branly (Paris, 2015).