James Thiriar
Congo Tabula Historica, 1950
Koninklijke Museum voor Midden-Afrika
Inv. HO.1987.18.288

James Thiriar, Congo Tabula Historica

Paper on wood panel, 106 x 75 cm, collection KMMA HO.1987.18.288

This geographical poster was published in the 1950s by the Information and Documentation Centre for the Belgian Congo and Ruandi-Urundi. It shows the key moments in the discovery, exploration and development of what would become the Belgian Congo. On a map of the Congo, the artist James Thiriar (1889-1965) has drawn 51 numbered historical scenes that are explained in a bilingual legend below.

We thus see the arrival of Portuguese seafarer Diego Cão at the mouth of the Congo in 1482 (no. 1), the celebrated meeting between Stanley and Livingstone in 1871 (no. 7) and the first flight between Belgium and Congo in 1925 (no. 48). The journeys of several explorers are also depicted.

The poster has a border featuring portraits of figures who have played a role in the history of Congo. Some of them are mentioned by name in the legend.

In addition to several stirring narrative scenes, just above the legend, the artist has placed the oldest map of Congo (Pigafetta, 1591) along with a depiction of the modern transport methods in this country located some 6000 km away from Belgium.

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