BOYAMBA BELGIQUE

By Dries ENGELS

SERENDIPITY FILMS - as PROD

Documentary - Completed 2010

During the independence ceremony of the Congo in 1960, a young black man steals the sabre of King Boudewijn. Photographer Robert Lebeck immortalizes the incident. In 'Boyamba Belgique' we search for the sabre and its thief, and we shed a new light on the tragic misapprehension of the colonisation.

    • Year of production
    • 2010
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • BELGIUM
    • Languages
    • FLEMISH, ENGLISH
    • Budget
    • 0.3 - 0.6 M$
    • Duration
    • 60 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Dries ENGELS
    • Writer(s)
    • Bart VAN PEEL, Dries ENGELS
    • Producer(s)
    • Ellen DE WAELE
    • Synopsis
    • Sometimes history is captured in one image.
      1960. Congo, the biggest African colony, becomes independent.
      The white King is standing upright in his limousine, in his snow-white military uniform, and salutes the Belgian flag. Behind him a young black man abducts the saber of the King and flees away. The only picture of this moment went around the world and photographer Lebeck made a craze with it. Only in Belgium it wasn’t publicized, until some years ago. Through “Paris Match” many Belgians saw the lese majesty, but our newspapers and magazines reported only briefly about it and left the shameful image behind.
      When the photo was exhibited in Brussels, 1965, it rained protests. The gallery owner felt obliged to take the picture down.
      In ‘Boyamba Belgique’ we search for the thief and the saber of the King. Lebeck tells us how he took the picture of his life and how the thief pushed him aside to get away. A little boy, who is captured in his picture, remembers it, now being in fifties, still distinctly. A King connaisseur explains how much the King was seized by emotion after the incident. In the archives we find an image clip where we can see the theft, without anyone realizing it at the time. When you know you see the saber just leaving the frame. Lebeck tells us that he has been searching for fifty years to who the thief was and why he did it, but still has no clue. He even went to Mobutu with the pictures, but he wasn’t able to help and changed the subject quickly.
      We travel to Congo in search for evidence. With the photo at hand we visit the remains of the monument of Albert I, where the reckless deed happened. We talk with some Congolese people about the political situation back in those days, and how they feel about the decolonization. Which meaning does the photo get after fifty years of self-reign? And especially, what do they know about the theft? An older man suddenly gives us a name: Diolenga. Diolenga le fou. We track down the family members of the thief and listen to their story. Who was Diolenga and what inspired him?
      How did the Congolese feel about King Boudewijn? ‘Bwana Kitoko’, beautiful gentleman, he was called by the Africans on his first Africa-trip, in 1955. In old image clips we see him smiling timidly while he is being worshiped by thousands of black people dressed in primitive costumes. The power that transcendent from him is in strong contrast with this picture. Boudewijn met up with some tribal kings. The Luba and the Bakuba. We visit these tribal’s and see how they handle king sabers. Why can’t their king speak while he’s holding a sabre? Why is the king’s sabre always kept in the hut of his first wife? In accordance with the animism religion, the sword houses the fertility and the power of the king. It has to be protected at all times against the enemies. That’s how we discover the deeper, primary meaning of the image on the picture.
      Which powers drifted away from the King and the dynasty? What has Belgium lost in Congo?
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