Congolese Plantation Workers Art League (CATPC)
The Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) was founded in 2014 by workers on a former palm oil plantation in Lusanga, Congo.
This plantation used to belong to Unilever, who took the land and exploited its labourers. CATPC members seek to decolonise their lives through a cooperative, community-based approach to art and agro-forestry. They make, sell, and exhibit art about their situation to earn funds to buy back parcels of their land. They call their land the “post-plantation” and organise shows in their White Cube museum.
This drawing outlines CATPC’s alternative plantation investment model in splendid detail: A giant camera captures a CATPC sculpture made from local clay. The digital files are transferred to Amsterdam for 3D printing in plantation-based materials: palm fat, cacao, and sugar. The sculpture is exhibited or sold, and the money flows back to the artists. The conventional Congo cacao industry is also pictured: cacao/chocolate money moves through the international market to banks across Europe and Asia, with no return to the plantation workers.
Image: Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Fons Welters
White Cube Lusanga (study), 2020
Each side of the sculpture presents a stage in the history of Lusanga and the artists’ project: the post-plantation. On the left, we view the violent, polluting history of palm oil extraction. To the back, the destruction it left behind: deforestation, land made arid by monoculture, poverty, and famine. Then begins the CATPC initiative: the production of art, and the redemption of the land. At the top, the artists represent sculptures looted during the colonial period and held in museums of the global north.