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Boma 1880-1920: Colonial Capital City or Cosmopolitan Trading Post?

Research Unit: Theory and History
Academic year:
Staff: Jef Vervoort Johan Lagae Thomas De Keyser

The Royal Museum of Central Africa holds an extensive, rich photographic collection. During the exhibition ‘The Memory of Congo: The Colonial Era’ (2005) a series of images was found that present a largely ignored view of Boma in 1900, which was the first capital city of the Congo Free State. At the request of Valérie Sandoz, then-head of the Department of Museology, Johan Lagae produced multimedia in collaboration with two former students, Thomas De Keyzer and Jef Vervoort, to present these images in the exhibition.
The presentation was constructed around four themes: visit, capital city, society and violence. Together, they shed light on the complex urban reality in Boma in 1900. Images of buildings and sites and portraits of a variety of inhabitants brought to the fore the tension that characterized Boma at a moment when its role shifted from a cosmopolitan trading post with a long history to the capital city of the Belgian territory in Central Africa.