UBUNDU by Jelena Jureša


Jelena Jureša, ›Ubundu‹, Film 17′, Video installation, loop, 2019


On being a foreigner. On dehumanization which always starts with language.

›Ubundu‹, a film poem filmed at Antwerp Zoo, portrays the okapi, an animal exhibited for the first time in Antwerp in 1919 (the nine-month-old animal was an instant sensation, but within a month it grew weaker and eventually died). The portrait of the animal that can only breed in captivity outside of the DRC, is juxtaposed with the voice-over acting out, shouting and singing the wounds of displacement and non-belonging. The work is inspired by the writings of W.G. Sebald, a German author who offered an alternative model of memory through intertextuality and a metonymical narrative technique. In his most notable novels, ›Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn‹, he circumnavigates the sites of radicalised violence, tracing the line between the Holocaust and colonialism. He comments on the »Ugliness of Belgium« as a result of spreading amnesia and the participation of all Belgians in Congolese riches. Antwerp Zoo and the European railway system have an important place in Sebald’s writing: the expansion of the railways enabled the development of capitalist production and transnational transport, becoming the symbol of their age, whilst also enabling mass deportations and genocide.
Because of her intention to incorporate Sebald’s phrase about the »Ugliness of Belgium« in her new work, Juresa has been declined official permission to film the Okapi at Antwerp Zoo. Filmed with a Bolex 16mm camera, each take takes less than half of a minute.


Written by: Asa Mendelsohn and Jelena Jureša
Director of Photography: Sébastien Cros
Assistance to principal photography: Jasmijn Cedee
Voice: Evelien van den Broek
Sound recording and sound design: Slobodan Bajić
Editing: Jelena Jureša
Producers / for Contour9 and kunstencentrum nona: Fleur van Muiswinkel, Alyssa Decq
Color grading: Josja van Zadelhoff (Charbon Studio)
Mastering: Charbon Studio

Commissioned by Contour Biennale 9 and Argos, centre for audiovisual arts. Supported by KASK School of Arts and HoGent.


Art in Dark Times
Outdoor curated by Galit Eilat and Erden Kosova
9—13 SEP 2020
Opening 9 SEP, 19.30—22.30 Uhr
Screenings Jelena Jureša (Ubundu), Yael Bartana (Inferno), Fatoş Irwen (Şiyan)