The fifth of Tshibumba’s paintings chosen is entitled LE MONSTRE DE LA CESSESSION KATANGAISE:

In this painting, UN troops are depicted in direct conflict with Katangese forces in Elisabethville (Lubumbashi) during the secession of Katanga. In conversation with Fabian, Tshibumba stated that just after the event depicted:

Katanga could go on no longer. There had been a lot of fighting, but then the war came to an end.

This would suggest that the painting is based around the end of the Katangan secession, which came to an official end in February 1963. The centre of the painting is focused on the ‘MAMOUTH’, the bulletproof tank driven through Elisabethville by Katangese forces. In Tshibumba’s narrative, the ‘MONSTRE’ of the secession was stopped by a UN solider who shot at and subsequently exploded the tank in its tracks. 

During his conversation with Fabian, Tshibumba’s personal memory is interwoven into the collective history of the event. To give context to the painting, Tshibumba describes that he knew of the tank because he watched it being built whilst visiting his father at the Comekat factory in Likasi. Tshibumba then follows this with a description of the scene pictured:

I think you see there, in front of it, I put a UN soldier who is down on one knee. That UN soldier, I believe, was the one who saved the entire UN contingent. He aimed his gun inside that iron vehicle, through a hole, and a bullet entered and exploded. All those who were inside died on the spot.

The scene pictured is therefore one of defeat for the Katangese forces. In particular, this painting offers an example of an event which was shaped through local or regional histories. In one interpretation, the triumph of the lone UN troop is presented as a victory against the ‘monster’ force of the Katangan secession. This is the viewpoint described by Tshibumba in the reaction of the Luba peoples, who developed a song on the incident after it occurred. Below is the original, sung by Tshibumba in Luba: 

char de combat: waswi likutwela/ wafika pa Sabena watwana Indiani/ Iindiani: wafika pa Sabena: watwana Indiani ya Indiani/ Indiani waile ka kimoke kitema/ baKatanga nibipoyo pa nyuma ke banyemaa/ baKatanga nebipoyo pa nyuma/

Followed by its translation into English:

The Katangese wanted to get into the tank, that mammoth of theirs … Then an Indian fired his gun just once and got the tank. And they fled [claps] and the tank stayed behind. They ran away, their belongings [lit. bundles] on their shoulders.

Tshibumba describes the song as being against the secession, and states that those who sung it were called ‘rebels’ against the secession by Katangese forces. Through Tshibumba’s oral account, insight is therefore given into the different local perceptions surrounding the secession. The account also provides insight into the role of song in the crisis, a subject which has become a recent topic of historiographical interest (Künzler and Reuster-Jahn: 2012). Through both visual and shared oral history, Tshibumba’s work presents an image of the secession which may broaden understanding of the events within the Congo Crisis. 


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All images are copyright of the KIT Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam.