Hands of(f) Congo


If one of these days you’re visiting the statue of former Belgian king Leopold II on his horse at Trone / Troon you will see that it is tainted by red paint. Leopold II privately controlled the colony of Congo Freestate between 1885 and 1903.

The paint is a trace of a counter-demonstration against the celebration of the 150th birthday of Leopolds crowning that was organised by liberal / conservative Brussels councilor for Urbanism Geoffrey Coomans de Brachène (MR).

Writer, political activist and president of Movement X Abou Jahjah called for a protest in honour of the victims of the Congo colonisers. According to this article in newspaper De Morgen, protesters would shout ‘Leopold Killer’ at the moment of the official gathering.

“After the pressure exerted by Movement X and many other partners, the city of Brussels decided to cancel the tribute” a small victory for the continuing struggle against racism and colonialism.

And the voice of protest left an imprint on the monument by way of red hands that are stamped all over the base, accompanied by a sentence containing the words ‘hands’ and ‘Congo’ which are coupled by a sign which is unknown to me. The bloody hands are a reference to the wide spread practice of mutilation and collecting of cut-off hands of the suppressed Congolese people during the colonial genocide in which an estimated ten million Congolese people lost their lives.

This isn’t the first time that red paint and this statue met each other. This article in Dewereldmorgen shows an image from 2008 when it was the figure of Leopold himself that was covered in paint.