Video installation, 17 min, loop, 2019
Jelena Jureša’s ‘Ubundu’, a film poem filmed at Antwerp Zoo, portrays the okapi, an animal exhibited for the first time in Antwerp in 1919 (the nine-month-old animal was an instant sensation, but within a month it grew weaker and eventually died). The portrait of the animal that can only breed in captivity outside of the DRC, is juxtaposed with the voiceover acting out, shouting and singing the wounds of displacement and non-belonging.
The work is inspired by the writings of W.G. Sebald, a German author who offered an alternative model of memory through intertextuality and a metonymical narrative technique. In his most notable novels, ‘Austerlitz’ and ‘The Rings of Saturn’, he circumnavigates the sites of radicalised violence, tracing the line between the Holocaust and colonialism. He comments on the “Ugliness of Belgium” as a result of spreading amnesia and the participation of all Belgians in Congolese riches. Antwerp Zoo and the European railway system have an important place in Sebald’s writing: the expansion of the railways enabled the development of capitalist production and transnational transport, becoming the symbol of their age, whilst also enabling mass deportations and genocide.
Because of her intention to incorporate Sebald's phrase about the “Ugliness of Belgium” in her new work, Jureša has been declined official permission to film the Okapi at Antwerp Zoo.
'Ubundu' is commissioned by Contour Biennale 9 and Argos, centre for audiovisual arts.
The project is supported by KASK School of Arts and HoGent.