Museumplein 01 | Lisa Ijeoma: Mirror Palace

Lisa Ijeoma kopie

Museumplein invites a different artist every five months to create work for the five gigantic flags in the flowerbed in front of S.M.A.K. Lisa Ijeoma kicks off the series.


Museumplein is an invitation to artists to create work that temporarily occupies Jan Hoetplein. This square connects different museums – S.M.A.K., MSK, and GUM – with each other and breathes Ghent's history: it is flanked on one side by the Botanical Garden and embraced on the other by the Citadelpark. Thus, Jan Hoetplein is a special place with many possibilities.

With these presentations we like to dream about what the future may bring, and showcase a new series of artworks in public space. Museumplein invites a different artist every five months to create work for the five gigantic flags in the flowerbed in front of S.M.A.K. For five months, each work seeks connection with the square, the park, the city, and its residents, prompting us to reflect on the role that art can and should play in public space.


Lisa Ijeoma, who lives and works in Gent, kicks off the series with five images inspired by historical slave portraits. In 1850, Harvard scientist Louis Agassiz commissioned photographer Joseph Zealy to take individual portraits of African American slaves. Agassiz was a prominent advocate of racial segregation and white supremacy. The portraits were part of a study aimed at proving that different races have different origins. This (now debunked) polygenic theory was used in 19th-century America to justify slavery. The photos are a haunting historical document that painfully confronts us with how inhumane people of color have been treated.

Lisa Ijeoma appropriates these Agassiz-Zealy portraits and lovingly translates some of them into textile patchworks. The artist retains the stylized matting with which the portraits were originally framed, as well as the subjects' postures. However, Ijeoma consistently adds a different floral motif to each one, framing the figures. Ijeoma flanks the portraits with text collages in which the depicted figures demand to be seen and heard.

The choice to bring these images here is not accidental. Ijeoma references our colonial heritage in the form of Human Zoos with Senegalese and Filipino villages, which were organized in the Citadelpark as part of the 1913 World Exhibition. It would be wonderful if as a society we could acknowledge our historical inhumanity towards people of color and extend that recognition to public space. There are no artworks in the public space of Ghent that center on a person of color. With this series, Ijeoma highlights the necessity of representation of people of color in public space. This temporary presentation hopes to be a first step in this direction.

Lisa Ijeoma (°1997, Bruges) often works with textiles, especially through handmade patchworks and handwoven fabrics. In her work, she focuses on heavy themes such as racism, sexuality, and femininity. She explores her own intersectional identity in a contemporary context and challenges the historical stereotyping, objectification, and exploitation of the colored body.

Museumplein is a project by artlead and S.M.A.K, supported by the City of Gent.

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