Schipbreukeling – Mathieu Charles

Ndidi Dike

Redressing Lady Justice

This project focuses on the allegorical personification ‘Lady Justice’. An alternative image is pursued that attends to the crimes enacted upon African (and African diasporic subjects) through slavery, land exploitation and an inequitable regard for black life. Her features are modelled after an African instead of European physique. In her right hand she holds a machete, symbolic of colonisers’ brutal methods of oppression. In her left hand, she carries the ‘scales of justice’ askew, featuring looted bronzes and artefacts and mini sculptures of enslaved people. The mask-shirt conceal her legs and reveal a faint image of the infamous Brooks slave plan template. The work calls attention to how the image of justice is ultimately blind to and silent about histories of violence propagated by those in power, proposing that a reckoning with injustices must also entail a re-examination of justice. 

A bend in the River II

This work explores how natural and human resources were controlled during the precolonial and postcolonial periods in Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The sculptures in this site-specific installation are calibrated for a European context where viewers can engage with the implications of the African diaspora and imperial legacies. Broken/amputated hands and fingers cast in Plaster of Paris (or glass fibre) appear in cardboard boxes. The sort used for medical gloves, arranged to evoke production lines, and the industrial undercurrents of 1960s Minimalist floor-bound sculptures. Glitter alludes to the optical effects of precious minerals taken from Africa. The truncated body parts reference histories of deformation resulting from forced labour and quota systems, particularly in the Congo, while sculptural units on the floor recall the scarification of the earth. 

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