Congo as Fiction

Congo as Fiction

Art Worlds between Past and Present

Congolese artists reflecting upon globalized trade, colonialism, proselytization, and virtual boundaries



Title Information

Edited by Nanina Guyer and Michaela Oberhofer

1st edition

, 2019

Text in English


328 pages, 413 color and 16 b/w illustrations

23 x 28 cm

ISBN 978-3-85881-835-5

In cooperation with Museum Rietberg, Zurich


A single Congo does not exist—or is in any case fictitious. Yet the Democratic Republic of Congo has an extraordinarily vibrant art scene that attracts great interest from around the world. Nowhere else in Africa art production is as manifold in form, media, and materials used. For many years, Congolese artists have been exploring and reflecting upon the effects of globalized trade, colonialism, proselytization, and virtual boundaries.

For the first time, this book, published in conjunction with an exhibition at Zurich’s Museum Rietberg, features art works and photographs collected by German anthropologist Hans Himmelheber during his journey to the Congo in 1938–39. They bear witness of the period’s extraordinary creativity and innovativeness as well as of the collector’s own idea of Congo. They are juxtaposed with works by contemporary Congolese artists and complemented by essays that investigate the fiction of Congo both as an African and Western World imagination. Thus, the book links the past with the utopia of contemporary artistic production in central Africa.

With contributions by Sandrine Colard, Laura Falletta, Christraud M. Geary, Nanina Guyer, Nzomba Dugo Kakema, David Mannes, Michaela Oberhofer, Constantine Petridis, Jens Stenger, and Z.S. Strother.


Nanina Guyer is curator for photography at Museum Rietberg in Zurich. She is currently pursuing a research project on photography in Congo during the 1930s.

Michaela Oberhofer is curatort of African art at Museum Rietberg in Zurich. She directs a research project on Hans Himmelheber and African art in collaboration with University of Zurich.


Deutsche Ausgabe

Authors & Editors

"The volume shows how Western museums can deal offensively with objects from overseas that are part of their exhibitions. It exemplarily made clear how this can be done critically, self-critically, and yet productively." Ulrich van der Heyden, journal of Art History


"Fiction Congo establishes a dialogue between past and present without running the risk that the European, postcolonial view dominates. An extremely worth reading volume, which with its broad range of topics provides a comprehensive insight into the past and present Congo as well as its art and culture." Celina Berchtold, journal of Art History