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Soldier of the Belgian Congo Force Publique Painting

Mandla Senzanje

United States

Painting, Oil on Canvas

Size: 36 W x 48 H x 0.5 D in

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Artist Recognition

link - Showed at the The Other Art Fair

Showed at the The Other Art Fair

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Artist featured in a collection

About The Artwork

This painting portrays a soldier from the Belgian Congo Force Publique. The Force Publique served as the military force during the reign of King Leopold II and throughout the era of Belgian colonial rule in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Initially comprising a mix of Belgian regular troops and mercenaries from various European nations, enticed by the promise of wealth, this army was commanded by European officers. Beneath these European leaders, an ethnically diverse group of African soldiers served, eventually becoming comparable to the askaris employed by other European colonial powers. Over time, the Force Publique began to shift towards greater recruitment of Belgian officers and native Congolese soldiers, leading to the gradual phasing out of white and black foreign mercenaries. Under the rule of Leopold II, the Force Publique earned a reputation as an "exceptionally brutal army." One of its primary objectives was to enforce rubber quotas and other forms of forced labor, often resorting to the amputation of villager’s hand who were deemed uncooperative. Disturbingly, there exists evidence, including photographs, of Force Publique soldiers severing human hands, either as macabre trophies, to demonstrate conservation of bullets, or as a horrifying punishment, including the dismemberment of children to discipline parents perceived as lacking productivity in the rubber plantations. By the close of 1891, the force consisted of 60 officers, 60 non-commissioned officers, and 3,500 black soldiers. To exert control over the outermost regions of the Free State, friendly tribes and militias were frequently enlisted. By 1900, the Force Publique had expanded to include a formidable force of 19,000 men.

Details & Dimensions

Painting:Oil on Canvas

Original:One-of-a-kind Artwork

Size:36 W x 48 H x 0.5 D in

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My art originates from a sense of homesickness, a feeling rooted in the frustration of being unable to converse in my native language for years. The gradual fading of my mother tongue, coupled with the inability to reunite with family during holidays and special events, has led me to question why life must unfold in this manner. Am I merely unlucky, or perhaps cursed? In the midst of this existential inquiry, I discovered purpose through oil painting. It became my vessel for self-education, a means to delve into the rich history of black people across the globe, far away from their ancestral homes. Through my art, I craft portraits, not merely as visual representations but as powerful connections between the past and the present. Each stroke of the brush serves as a bridge, linking my story with that of others and weaving narratives that are profoundly personal and cherished. In painting these portraits, I find not only a medium for creative expression but also a profound way to tell stories that are close to my heart. Each artwork becomes a testament to resilience, a tribute to the enduring spirit of black people, and a beacon of hope that transcends the boundaries of language and geography. Through my art, I navigate the depths of homesickness, transforming it into a vibrant tapestry of cultural heritage and shared humanity.

Artist Recognition

Showed at the The Other Art Fair

Handpicked to show at The Other Art Fair presented by Saatchi Art in Dallas

Artist featured in a collection

Artist featured by Saatchi Art in a collection

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