This concerns one of the rooms of the Museum, which houses the tapestries from Flanders, the centrepiece of the Institution. In the middle is a container - dimensions (1.85 X 70 X 90) - with three monitors whose screens, facing upwards and 10 cm from the top, show images in which three Kongo birettas, belonging to the African collection owned by the Museum, navigate over the sea in a continuous and circular motion; only the swelling of the waters is heard.
Some of the faces of the characters in the 16th century allegorical tapestries are tenuously, but in a very precise manner, illuminated.
This work contrasts the relations of one culture with the productions of another culture, in this case the West with African artefacts.
The different exhibition contexts and systems of classification to which they were subjected - "object of curiosity", "ethnographic object", "handicraft" or "object of art", demonstrate a difficulty: what seems significant in this process, so unstable and disquieting, is the permanent desire of the West to order and classify within their own categories, what is definitively part of another system of thinking and knowledge.
The aim is to provoke in the viewer uncertainty regarding the identity of the objects and to warp the Western categories that are usually fixed. To arouse curiosity about what objects coming from other geographical cultures mean and how they mean.
The Kongo birettas, nfu, are not what they seem, i.e. birettas.
Their use identifies a political identity, but also religious or professional, particularly that of dancers and musicians; it distinguishes kings, chiefs and individuals separated from the other members of the community. But in addition to being an indicator of status, wearing them or simply owning them, grants the individual a specific power and confirms the notion of authority as a secret relation of a group of individuals with spiritual forces that inhabit the nether world, to which the waters of the ocean are both a frontier and a bridge.
In illuminating some figures in the tapestries, also with prodigious hats, the identity and effectiveness of these productions are questioned, which, despite the fact that they are part of a cultural circuit and thinking that we claim to belong to, are no more obvious for this. If the first are culturally distant in space, these are in time.
S. Bartolomeu, 2001