However, the greatest disgrace is that there is hardly any mention of his crimes in our history books. Yet he sits alongside Hitler and Mussolini as one of the most destructive human beings to have ever existed.
This is a man who is responsible for the murder of over 10million+ Africans in the Congo.
A man who made scores of children into orphans, ripped families apart and left countless innocent people maimed and disabled.
Congo to this day is still trying to recover from the scars left by Leopold.
So we have to ask ourselves, why are there not countless Hollywood films depicting this man and his genocidal crimes?…. much like how Hitler is frequently featured in films… Where are the history books that heavily feature KIng Leopold’s crimes?… Where are the countless memorials across the world for the victims of his crimes or a national day in Belgium dedicated to their memory?
On a personal level…
In 2017, I felt angry and sick to my stomach with the fact that this man’s injustice had been forgotten. I wanted this not to be the case, I wanted the victims of Leopold’s crimes to be permanently remembered in one form or the other.
So decided to create these artworks in their memory. I felt art was an effective tool that could be utilized to help create this permanent reminder.
I wanted the artworks to serve as a reminder of Leopold’s crimes but somehow transcend it to show instead the incredible resilience, grace and strength of Africans.
Artworks that celebrates the courage and dignity that Africans have even in the face of the worst atrocities.
An additional impetus for my creating this art series was because in that year, I had suffered a very serious form of racism. The kind of pugnacious and abhorrent racism that could have upturned my life.
You see one of the problems with racism is that most people picture silly name calling and quiet slights as the main forms of it. Yet what is often overlooked and not discussed is the truly vile, direct and malicious form that has the potential to damage lives.
Now my situation was nowhere as bad as anything my Ancestors faced in the Congo, but it had me thinking about the destructive potency of racism and how it was the underlining fuel behind Leopold’s hideous crimes.
I wondered how the people of Congo had gone from living a peaceful life to having their world shattered overnight by racism.
We as humanity cannot keep granting this evil behaviour (racism) to exist within our psyches, nations or systems.
We cannot also exalt figures such as King Leopold II of Belgium and have their crimes hidden from humanity.
Its sickening that after Leopold’s death, the transfer of his private colony to the Belgium government, and a policy of “great forgetting” was implemented.
Many Belgians today fondly remember Leopold II as the ‘Builder King‘ for his extensive public works project in Belgium.
In Ostend (Belgium), the beach promenade has a 1931 sculptural monument dedicated to Leopold II, showing him and the Congolese together as one.
“We must not make tyrants into heroes. We must not paint the victims out of history. It is for this reason that I chose to paint the victims back into our current history.“
*These triptych artworks now serve as a reminder that humanity must never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity.