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The Seat of Memory

Roland Gunst_John K Cobra / Moussem

1 March – 19h00 PERFORMANCE

2 March – 11h00 for 11.30 am to 2.30 pm – TALK

2 March – 3 pm PERFORMANCE

‘Domination must envelop the subjugated, the colonised, and maintain them in a more or less permanent state of trance, intoxication, and convulsion so that they are incapable of thinking lucidly for themselves.’ – Achille Mbembe

SPIRIT CAPITAL refers to an object from the Congolese Luba tradition: a wooden headrest, usually with two identical female figures at its base. These objects serve as ‘lieux de mémoire’, or spirit and history containers. They are part of a complex, reflective and historical infrastructure within the Luba community. 


Two female, outwardly identical performers move through the theatre space. The stage design evokes the ‘Tropical Bungalow’, a residential structure installed by the colonizer in the Congo and organized according to the principle of ‘zoning’: the strict separation of circulation space for whites (the colonial residents) and blacks (the local domestic staff). The so-called boys, the black youths who worked there, began to copy the behaviour and style of the white ruler and appropriate them in all sorts of ways.  This was the start of a rich tradition of ‘Sapologie’ or ‘SAPE’: performative identity practices of Congolese dandies, a counterculture to the spatial, social and racial classification of bodies. 

SPIRIT CAPITAL transforms the stage into a ritualized place and invites viewers on a spatial and mental journey in which historically oppressed bodies can cast off the chains of history and free themselves through movements, words, sounds, music and changes to their appearance.


SPIRIT CAPITAL – The Seat of Memory holds at its centre an object from the Congolese Luba tradition: a wooden headrest, showing two identical female figures at its base. Used as spirit and history containers it forms the anchor for the performance which is staged on the outline of the ‘Tropical Bungalow’, a residential structure installed by the colonizer in the Congo and organized according to the zoning principle: the strict racial separation and circulation of space. SPIRIT CAPITAL transforms the stage into a ritualized place and invites viewers on a spatial and mental journey in which historically oppressed bodies move through words, sounds, and appearance towards a hybrid transculture.

1 March – 19h00

2 March – 15h00


The conversation uses SPIRIT CAPITAL as a prompt to discuss the psychology of space, the manifestation of history, possible contemporary understandings of identity, and the performativity of memory within a South African context.

With: Dr. Nosipho Mngomezulu, Dr. heeten bhagat, Gilbert Balinda, Slindile Mthembu, Roland Gunst, and Samara Ragaven. By applying the speakers’ expertise in Anthropology, Psychology, Theatre/Performance, Art and Architecture we invite you to an exercise in transdisciplinary exchange and deep listening. The conversation will be followed by the performance at 3 pm.

2 March – 11h00 for 11h30 to 14h30


Concept & direction: Roland Gunst_John K Cobra

Choreography:           Moya Michael

Performers:                Doris Bokongo Nkumu & Nathalie Bokongo Nkumu (Les Mybalés) Text: Roland Gunst_John K Cobra & Esther Severi

Dramaturgy:               Esther Severi

Soundscape:              Laryssa Kim

Lightdesign:                Stef Stessel

Scenography & costumes: Andrea Kränzlin

Engineer:                    Pieter Kint

Production:                 John K Cobra institute of Videoartfacts, Moussem Nomadisch Kunstencentrum Co-production: deSingel, Kunstencentrum Vooruit, Kaaitheater, d e t h e a t e r m a k e r Supported by: de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, de VGC en de Algemene Afvaardiging van de Vlaamse  Regering in zuidelijk Afrika

Thanks to: Arsenaal/Lazarus, Latitudes Art Fair, The Centre for the Less


 Roland Gunst_John K Cobra – concept and direction

Roland Gunst (°1977), a.k.a. John K Cobra, is a self-taught conceptual artist, filmmaker and musician of Belgian Congolese descent, living and working between Belgium and South Africa. His work arises from an autobiographical perspective: he grew up in a bicultural family in the Democratic Republic of Congo and migrated to Belgium around the age of twelve. Through performances, films and visual artworks, Gunst reflects on Afro-European strategies and narratives of liberation to counter strategies of repression of (body) identity and trauma, caused by brutal capitalism and the artificial fragmentation and immobilisation of life. Gunst’s strategies are developed around what professor Cécile Fromont calls ‘spaces of correlation’: spaces of correspondence between European and African cultural traditions that have developed separately but use similar concepts of liberation and critical practices.  Gunst uses the human body and architecture to arrive at a new type of fluid or transarchitecture that functions as a mobile place of memory. By creating disruptive hybrid concepts and media, he defies the boundaries that define identity, culture, human condition and history.

Gunst takes his inspiration from African and European art history, anthropology, psychology,  philosophy and mythology, working with symbolic materials that form ‘spaces of correlation’ between  Europe and Africa: human hair, copper, rubber and wood. These are all symbols of power, used in strategies of colonial rule, as well as in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist cultural resistance. KWANGA – ‘life’ in the Congolese Kikongo language – is the name he gave to the Afro-European rubber he uses in  his work as a medium to materialise this vision of transcultural, gender and national fluidity, where we  can find the spaces of negotiation and liberation.

Gunst uses rubber as a central medium in his most recent works. For example, in the performance Spirit Capital (deSingel, Vooruit/NTGENT, Kaaitheater and ARSENAAL/LAZARUS). In his video installation Trans Capital (‘EUROPA, Oxalá’ in Mucem, Marseille; Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; Royal  Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren). And in his sculptures Kwanga Bars and Kwanga Skin (both at  ‘EUROPA, Oxalá’ at Mucem, and F***BOY and Trans Canibal, both at ‘Nkisi N’ Kondi’ [new power  figures], Nel Gallery, Cape Town. 

In 2021, Gunst’s lecture/performance TRANS ARCHITECT / TRANSARCHITECTURE AND MOVING MONUMENTS, a work in progress, was presented at Kunstenfestivaldesarts.

The 45 min. video installation TROPICAL BUNGALOW / A SITE OF REHABILITATION, produced with the support of EUNIC member organisation IFAS, premiered at the conference ‘In Whose Place?  Confronting vestiges of the colonial landscape in Africa’, at Wits Art Museum and Johannesburg Art  Gallery, both in Johannesburg.

TROPICAL BUNGALOW / THE SEAT OF OPPRESSION (50 min.), an experimental film produced by Polar Bear and with the support of FilmLAB/VAF, is now in development.

Performance piece FLANDRIA was presented in 2019. It was produced by the John K Cobra Institute of  Videoartfacts and LOD Muziektheater, in co-production with NTGent, Victoria Deluxe, Vooruit, BOZAR,  and in collaboration with De Grote Post; with support from WIPCOOP / Mestizo Arts Platform.As an  artist and researcher, Gunst is involved in the critical network BEyond PARTicipation, a four-year  European research project of 9 performance art festivals aimed at developing a better understanding  of the relationship between power, politics, place and audience in art practice. His research is a cooperation with Esther Severi (*1983), a dramaturge from Brussels.


For media enquiries please contact Lusanda Zokufa (Brand and Communication Manager at the Market Theatre Foundation) at or (011) 832 1641 or 072 367 7867.

For reduced price block bookings (of 10 or more) and school groups, contact Anthony Ezeoke (Audience Development) at / 083 246 4950 and Mamello Khomongoe / 081 572 9612