Sammy Baloji | Kasala: The Slaughterhouse of Dreams or the First Human, Bende’s Error



The “Slaughterhouse of Dreams” is a performance and interactive video installation reflecting on how Luba history is transmitted, particularly through such mnemonic devices as scarification and art objects, and though oral and aural forms.

The kasala is a traditional Luba praise poem that publicly hails a person using a solemn and laudatory form of free verse that is rich in allusion, incorporating references to proverbs, myths, fables, riddles, tales, and historical narratives. The kasala is sung or recited, sometimes with instrumental accompaniment, by men or women who are professional specialists. The kasala lends drama to moments that call for strong emotion, such as exhortations to battle, celebration at official functions, and mourning at funerals. 

In Kasala: The Slaughterhouse of Dreams or the First Human, Bende’s Error, a contemporary kasala about diamond diggers, is declaimed by the author himself, Fiston Mwanza Mujila, a Congolese author based in Graz, Austria. This recitation is accompanied by Patrick Dunst on saxophone and Grilli Pollheimer on the drums while performed on stage are a drum and a trumpet, forged in copper and with surfaces etched in traditional Luba scarification patterns. The performance unfolds within an interactive, multi-media installation in which images of Congolese television news reports are intermixed with X-ray scans of ritual sculptures, images of Mbudye dancers, and images of floating minerals that underscore and overwrite all of Conglese history.