It is sparking debate about art, opportunity, and the legacy of colonialism.

IN APRIL 2017 AN ART gallery opened in an improbable place—on a former palm oil plantation in Lusanga, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Located more than 400 miles southeast of the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, the town is remote and impoverished. Workers on the plantations make just $19 a week, and many have too little to eat. The bright white gallery, a brand new institution whose ambit is yet to be defined, stands out not just against the red earth and lush foliage of its surroundings, but as an incongruous extravagance.

The gallery is the latest development in an ongoing project that’s incited heated debate. Can art be used to address the economic exploitation of the plantation economy that plagued Africa for centuries without, on some level, being a source of exploitation itself?

The plantation workers of Lusanga had never even seen an art gallery before the gallery’s inauguration, a ceremony entitled “The Repatriation of the White Cube,” but more than 2,000 people took part in the festivities. There was music, dancing, and the ceremonial burning of a fishing net draped over the gallery’s exterior. read more