Remembering the present by Johannes Fabian

Jane M M By Jane M M, 5th Aug 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Art, Architecture & Photography

Rembering the present is a well written book by anthropologist Johannes Fabian. This article reviews the work of Johannes Fabian and his interaction with artist in Congo. The book is very insightful as It explores how people use art (paintings) to explain the history of Congo and the events that happened in the past.

Remembering the present by Johannes Fabian

Remembering the present is an eye opening journey through an anthropologists interaction with an artist Tshibumba .Through their interaction they both realize that they have same interests of exploring the history of Congo. It’s at this juncture that both realize the need for each other as they attempt to accomplish their goals. Fabien longs to learn about the experiences of the Congo people during colonialism while Tshibumba feels compelled to provide the history as he knows it best. Tshbumba makes it clear that through his paintings, he can show the events that happened in the past. Some of the most interesting histories of Congo are portrayed in painting form by Tshibumba. There is no doubt that the painter relies on his memory and narratives from other witnesses of some events to create his work and to present his ideas. Just how important are the paintings to Congoans?
Tshibumba posits that when genre paintings are purchased, they are to be hung in living rooms to symbolize affluence and participation in a collectively shared consciousness and creativity. Most importantly is the fact that the paintings have the capability of bringing back memories of past experiences and present predicaments. However overreliance on memory to produce history can be detrimental especially if memory happens to fail in the event of traumatic experience or sickness. Witnessing the atrocities like Tshibumba did can lead to tension and conflict in the memory thereby giving people invalid information. Nevertheless Tshibumba is convinced that through his paintings he is able to create key events from the past which is comprehensible as far as the history of their country is concerned. However, he raises questions over why he prioritizes certain events such as the advent of the Belgian colony or the death of Patrice Lumumba over others. This demonstrates his ability as an artist can juxtapose depictions of official administrative acts with images of popular resistance and protest.
Most African countries achieved their independence around 1960s and they are actually enjoying their freedom. However, Congo has not had peace for almost a century. Bad governance, corruption and dictatorship have led to the country’s downfall. Even though many African countries at one time or the other had such conflict, it’s evident that most of the countries have had their own “Moses’s” People like Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for demanding for freedom for his African citizens. Patrice Lumumba follows the same suit. He made great sacrifice symbolizing how great a leader he was. He was humane, thoughtful and charismatic leader with a deep faith in the force of words and in speaking truth. He especially portrays his bold character when he deliberately delivers a speech denouncing Belgian colonialism during the ceremonial transfer of power presided over by king Baudouin. His sudden death saddens his fellow countrymen who look at him as their messiah but he dies having developed a program which would provide the basis for a democratic Congo.
Remembering the present is a book written by Johannes Fabian. It can be found on


Anthropologist, Art Photography, Historical Events, History Of Congo, Popular Culture

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author avatar Jane M M
My areas of focus include issues facing women, family and friends stories, children experiences, personal life experiences,daily events around the world among others.

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