On 17 January 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the nationalist, the independence leader and the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was assassinated. It was merely 7 months after that the Congo had gained independence from Belgium. From the day of the independence, Congo was already in the midst of unrest and conflicts between nationalists, federalists and ethnocentrists and between Soviet sympathisers and US supported.
Using this crisis as a chance, Mobutu Sese Seko initiated a coup and the assassination of Lumumba with the support of US, Belgium and British government. Then on 4 November 1965, he carried out the second coup and seized dictatorial power. For the next three decades, Mobutu’s regime of Zaire was predominantly supported by the West as an anti-communist fortress on the continent of Africa. The large-scale corruption, abuse, and breeches of human rights were overlooked in exchange for an anti-communist agenda and for exploitation of natural resources. As a result, the economy of Zaire began to collapse due to the civil war that broke out in the early 1990s. As tensions rose to breaking point, Zaire fell apart in 1997 and left an enormous debt to the world, including Mobutu’s huge private debt. Consequently, a lot of state-owned properties were seized by foreign investors. This included embassies, that had been dysfunctional due to the lack of capital and instability of the country.
In 2009, the embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo located in the Hague, Netherlands was suddenly closed. Behind the closure, there had been a long legal dispute between the state of the Congo and a debt collector residing in Lebanon.
In October 2010, a new Dutch law entered into force, criminalizing squatting activities. This was a historical change, as until this time, the Netherlands was one of the rare countries that had kept the progressive socialistic law protecting people’s right for having home. ( “Huisvrede” = “Domestic peace” is a notion that gained a legal backup as ruled by the Dutch Supreme Court back in 1914. Then in 1971, a group of squatters in the city Nijmegen introduced and adopted the notion and won their case over a property owner. Thus the notion of “Domestic peace” had accelerated at the same time protected Dutch squatting activities over the history. )
In the same year in 2010, the newly formed right-wing coalition government, including the radical alt-right party PVV also proposed a drastic budget cut in welfare and culture in order to accelerated economic liberalism. Almost 1/4 of the annual budget in culture was cut out and ending of the economical support for graduated artists were also implemented.
Amid this dramatic social/cultural change, the embassy of the Congo in the Hague became the grounds for squatters, just a few days before the new squatting law was implemented. Since then, the embassy of the Congo has been transformed into both a collective living house and space for music, art and communal events, while the diplomatic immunity of the Congo kept applying to the building. “The Free Zone of Culture” – we explained about the house in this way in the earliest period of the occupation.
The film ‘A HOUSE PLACED IN BETWEEN – Poetry in the comfortable grey zone’ was shot between 2011-2016, when Takeuchi lived and worked in the occupied Congolese embassy. The project derives from Takeuchi’s encounter with a group of Congolese protestors in the house, during the turbulent period of unrest following the presidential election in the Congo in 2011. The outcome of the presidential election overwhelmingly but questionably favoured Joseph Kabila who was re-elected as president. Therefore, the opposition protestors – supporters of Étienne Tshisekedi – came to occupy the embassy in order to protest the rigged election results. To their surprise, the embassy was already occupied by us (foreigners)… Having this event as a reference point, Takeuchi embarked on the journey of explorations of the history of D.R Congo as well as of the embassy building. The film attempts to show the process of this research, and both personal and collective contemplation about the “protected” artists living in this ambiguous grey zone. The film also questions on the colonial legacy that was and is still embedded in today’s political system and our perceptions.
(More personal intentions can be read in Director’s note.)