An Italian Film (Africa Addio)

Mathieu Kleybe Abonnenc

In the engine house of a former pin factory French artist Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc presented a new film and installation. Through the voices of local children the film tells stories old and new of the exploitation of metal-rich African subsoils by foreign powers.

Abonnenc’s new work confronts the contemporary and historic exploitation of copper in the Katanga region of Congo, a region that has been repeatedly ravaged since its colonisation by Belgian King Leopold II in the 19th Century. Leopold looted small copper crosses, originally forms of currency made by a sect known as the ‘copper eaters’ that were shipped to Europe for industrial use. As a way of underlining the violence of the colonial act and its continuing contemporary enactment in the post-industrial context, Abonnenc has subjected several copper crosses, bought from private collectors to a process of recasting, with the help of a local foundry.

The resulting film is the first part of a wider body of work that takes Jacopetti and Propseri’s notorious 1960 film Africa Addio as a starting point to discuss the imperial nostalgia embodied, not only by this film, but also by particular instances of modern art. An Italian Film (Africa Addio) was presented concurrently as part of the contemporary art biennial Les Ateliers de Rennes, from 15 September–9 December 2012. In March 2014 it was shown as part of the AV Festival (Newcastle)

Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc (born French Guiana, lives and works in Paris) is an artist, curator and researcher whose work explores the history of the colonial encounter and its effects on memory and identity. He uses drawings, installations, photographs, interviews and archives, to counter collective amnesia and erasure of experiences and traumas. In 2011 he was commissioned by Gasworks to produce Foreword to Guns for Banta, which uses the films of pioneering film-maker Sarah Maldoror as a catalyst to ask whether the spirit of liberation movements of 60’s Africa can be reactivated. His installation and performance work For Julius Eastman was presented at the Palais de Tokyo as part of La Triennale: Intense Proximity from 4 May – 26 August 2012.

An Italian Film (Africa Addio), installation in Holbeck, Leeds

An Italian Film (Africa Addio), video still

An Italian Film (Africa Addio), installation in Holbeck, Leeds