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4 November 2015 / leggypeggy

Art from the Congo comes to life in Paris

Painting by JP Mika

The exhibition’s lively and impressive main painting by JP Mika

Africa is still one of my favourite continents. Both Poor John and I lived there for a few years, and spent many more remarkable months (in the 1970s and again in 2009) travelling through a swag of countries on the back of a truck.

So we were delighted to make a side trip to the Congo while we were in France last month.

You might not know that there are two Congos, There’s Congo Brazzaville (slightly more peaceful) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known formerly as the Belgian Congo or Zaire).

Our brief side trip took us to the latter Congo (or DRC), which is also the more violent and war-torn. Civil war has raged there since 1996 and more than 5.4 million people have died in the conflict. That death toll is almost unbelievable and millions more have been maimed, raped, left homeless and all sorts of other travesties. If you don’t know much about the place, you can learn more here.

While the war continues to be heartbreaking and horrific, there’s much more to the country. We had a short but peaceful time there and a most amazing turkey sandwich, but more about that another time.

The Parisian side trip was all about art—especially art produced over the last 90 years. The artworks, which I hope will make an international tour, are currently on display at the Cartier Foundation in Paris.

The exhibit, called Beauté Congo, features 350 pieces by 41 artists. There are paintings, sculptures, photographs and even some music. Scattered amongst the artworks are music pods, where you can tune into music that reinforces the themes of the art pieces.

African sculptures

African sculptures depicting cities of the future

About some of the works

This is the first-ever retrospective of art from the DRC. Most of the pieces have never been displayed internationally, and have instead ‘lived’ in private collections in Belgium, France and Switzerland. Others have come from Belgium’s colonial archives, while a few others have come from the artists themselves.

While I never got pictures of this practice, it is common for DRC artists to hang their paintings outside their studios for all the world to see. This fits with the exhibition itself.

Many artworks reflected DRC’s street life—bars, music, dance, flamboyant clothes and cars. In fact, the exhibition’s vibrant main photo (and the one featured on the cover of the exhibition’s book) is of street dancing. It was Poor John’s and my favourite piece. It’s by JP Mika who was born in Kinshasa in 1980.

Several early artists had pieces that reminded us of Aboriginal art. They were by Sylvestre Kaballa, Mode Munta, Lukanga and Mwenze Kibwanga.

There were two interesting sculptures by people whose names I failed to catch. Sorry. I was sure I’d photographed the ID cards, but can’t find them now.

We really loved some of the ancient pieces from the Belgian archives. These included pieces by husband and wife, Antoinette and Albert Lubaki. The images are near the bottom of this post.

The battle against mosquitos

The battle against mosquitos by Ledy

I also got a kick out of Cheik Ledy’s painting of the battle against mosquitos. He/she died in 1997 and I hope it wasn’t from malaria.

We spent longer at the exhibit than we’d planned for and have no regrets. The exhibit was supposed to end this month (November), but it’s been extended through January. Great decision.

Yes, we went shopping

There are two floors of works and another floor of sales. We actually got sucked into the sales, which is most unusual for us.

One purchase was an overview of the exhibit. After Paris, we were going to Belgium to stay with a friend who taught in the Belgian Congo for a couple of years. I knew he’d love the overview, so we bought it as a thanks-for-having us-stay-with-you gift. He loved it.

Our other purchase was one we dithered over. Poor John spotted it first—a not-so-slim volume of Kim Jong Il Looking at Things. It was a back and forth conversation.

I can’t really justify this, he said.

Oh for heaven’s sake, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of showing it to friends, I countered.

He thought for a nanosecond and bought it.

When we got back to Libby’s place, we showed it to her straightaway.

Her reaction, Oh thank goodness you bought it. I agonized over whether to buy it and finally decided not to.

I guess we know who gets it in the will. Maybe we should have bought multiple copies.

by Moke

by Moke, I’m still a fan of Skol and Primus beer


Leave a Comment
  1. Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet / Nov 4 2015 11:06 pm

    Some great pieces of art in there. I love the Mosquito one and the Skol one at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2015 8:41 am

      Mosquitos in Africa are ferocious. And a decent African beer should taste at least okay cold or warm. Refrigeration isn’t always common.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet / Nov 5 2015 6:41 pm

        No to the mosquitos but a big fat yes to the cold beer, regardless of make!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2015 7:22 pm

        I prefer cold beer, but learned to drink it warm when I had to in Africa, which was often. 😦


    • Zambian Lady / Nov 6 2015 2:42 am

      I had only seen the mosquito the woman wanted to catch and did not see the million others – imagine. That’s a lot of mosquitos!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wiltrud / Nov 5 2015 3:13 am

    Fabulous. I’ll spend a few days in Paris and now I know what I really want to see

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Curt Mekemson / Nov 5 2015 3:51 am

    I too have been a fan of African art ever since my stint there in the 60s. I have several pieces, including the Bush Devil I featured on the front of my book.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2015 9:10 am

      Thanks for mentioning your book. I just had a look and Amazon says it’s selling price is $70.34 new and $85.87 used. I’m thinking that might not be right.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Curt Mekemson / Nov 5 2015 11:31 am

        Try “The Bush Devil Ate Sam.” Think $3.99 for the Ebook. 🙂 But I’ll go look.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2015 12:21 pm

        I saw the ebook option, but thought you ought to know about the goofy paperback pricing.


  4. Vicki / Nov 5 2015 11:59 am

    Such amazing and beautiful artwork, Peggy. A couple of pieces look almost like Australian Aboriginal artwork.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2015 12:21 pm

      I agree Vicki, some of those pieces are very similar to Aboriginal art.


  5. Helen Karathanasis / Nov 5 2015 12:12 pm

    Love the artwork and your writing. I hope to catch up with you for a chat soon. Love Helbaby

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2015 12:51 pm

      Thanks Helbaby, would love to catch up. Keep me posted.


  6. Sy S. / Nov 5 2015 12:31 pm

    Interesting Blog on art from the Congo. I agree the main exhibit painting by JP Mika is sensational.
    I also found this painting by Cheri Cherin to be interesting as well;
    “PARLE MENTEURS DES PARTIES POURRITIQUES”… A Google Translation- “LIARS SPEAK THE PARTIES POURRITIQUES.” I could not quite figure out the following word so Googled “Pourritiques” and came up with many images and ones shown in this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2015 12:42 pm

      Thanks to my trusty French dictionary, I’ve managed to translate the title. It’s ‘Talking Liars of Rotting Parties’. Pourritiques comes from the verb pourrir, which means to rot. The image implies that it refers to Parliament.


  7. thegreyeye / Nov 5 2015 5:54 pm

    Thank you for little piece of Congo. Ledy unfortunately died of aids related complications.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Neethu / Nov 5 2015 6:16 pm

    Awesome 👌👌

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Cryptic Garland / Nov 5 2015 8:55 pm

    The colours are so bright. Especially that Skol beer one. and the look on their faces!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2015 10:57 pm

      I think I had a couple of beers in the pub pictured in that Skol painting. We were allowed to go to the fridge and pick out the coldest beer. Didn’t matter much because the fridge wasn’t plugged in.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. pagedogs / Nov 5 2015 11:13 pm

    Wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. afterthelasttime / Nov 5 2015 11:21 pm

    This is wonderful, Peggy! I’m glad you/PJ bought the Kim Jong Il piece as you’ll never regret it!
    I love the Mandela/Obama piece and possibly the “congress” even more! You may pick them up and have them shipped to me at your convenience!!! 😃
    The “DOT” artist is super and the one looks so much like Australia Aboriginal!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2015 11:57 pm

      Everyone thinks the Kim Jong Il book is hilarious, so we have a lot of fun sharing it. I like the Mandela/Obama painting too. But I could have bought any of the pieces. Pity that nothing was for sale.


  12. Jane / Nov 6 2015 6:09 pm

    I LOVE this art collection but my eyebrows went up went I first read you went to the Congo, and the more dangerous one at that. I have health worker friends who’ve helped out over there and have relayed information back to me. Such a lot of suffering has occurred and is still occurring. I feel for the people who live there and hope one day there will be more peace. The artworks are gorgeous and really appeal to me! Thanks for sharing them. I’ve been keen to travel through Africa for a number of years now especially after following quite a few cycling tourers’ blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 6 2015 9:43 pm

      Oh Jane, it’s so valuable to have a comment from someone who has some knowledge of the Congo. The suffering there has been beyond belief, but we were lucky to have a peaceful time there—although some dogs piddled on our tent. Contact me when you want to go to Africa and maybe I can help you to plan.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. ideenbarimani / Nov 7 2015 7:13 am

    Beautiful pictures! Outstanding post! Love!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Lynz Real Cooking / Nov 7 2015 7:54 am

    You and John have done so much and seen so much Peggy! I love this post and it is sad to hear about the war torn areas!! Amazing art Peggy! Thanks so much for these interesting and enlightening posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Joan / Nov 7 2015 10:28 am

    Amazing pictures! Thank you for sharing them!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. singhcircle / Nov 7 2015 2:53 pm

    Love the post. Some great art from a part of the world we know so little about!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. milliethom / Nov 9 2015 5:34 am

    African art looks totally awesome… so colourful and full of life. I was only thinking, before you mentioned it (honest!) how some pieces reminded me of Aboriginal art. We saw a few wonderful pieces of that when were were in Australia ten years ago. The mosquito picture is so great, and I simply love the exhibition’s main painting. So vibrant! Thank you for the interesting information and photos of African art, Peggy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 9 2015 8:05 am

      I’m so glad you are familiar with Aboriginal art. Anyone who’s seen it would notice the link between that and some African art. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

      • milliethom / Nov 9 2015 8:08 am

        You’re welcome, Peggy. It was an interesting and colourful post. .

        Liked by 1 person

  18. dheboragiardini83 / Nov 10 2015 1:25 am

    Very nice blog! I just start mine few days ago…Is in Italian, but I need to learn more and create the page in several languages 🙂 Thanks for sharing all this 🙂


    • leggypeggy / Nov 10 2015 1:12 pm

      Thank you so much. I’m keen to have a look and follow at your blog too.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. milliethom / Nov 10 2015 10:00 am

    Hello again, Peggy.Neither of the Delia Smith books I have on my shelf have the recipe in it that I use. The one I Iuse I found online a few years ago. I’ve had a look on Delia’s site today and can’t find the exact recipe for Oat Parkin now. It’s probably just been updated. My recipe is in ounces, for a start, and the ones online are in grams.

    The link I’m sending is the closest I can find to my copy, so you can check that out for the method (simple melting method).

    I’ll list here the ingredients from my recipe – which I double up to make a larger quantity. I’ll write them out horizontally to save space:

    4oz self raising flour (or plain/all purpose flour + baking powder); 7oz dark or golden syrup; 1oz treacle + 1 teaspoon (yes, that’s what it says); 4oz margarine; 4oz soft brown sugar; 2 level teasp. ground ginger; pinch of salt; 1 large egg, beaten;1 tablesp. milk; 8 oz medium oatmeal.. Oven 140 deg.C

    I’d be happy to send the method if you need it but it’s the same as on this link. It’s important to let the parkin cool in the tin before attempting to take it out. It will just break up if you try to lift it out while it’s hot.
    Here’s the link to a similar Delia recipe in grams:

    You can always delete this message from your post once you’ve got what you want. It does make a lovely, oaty parkin. Hope it’s some use, anyway. Millie

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 10 2015 10:57 am

      My goodness Millie, what a lot of effort you have gone to. It’s most appreciated. I’ll give this a try and let you know how it goes. I had done some looking after you first raised the subject and saw that it’s essential to let it cool in the tin. Anyway, thanks heaps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • milliethom / Nov 11 2015 8:52 am

        You’re welcome. Peggy. I just wasn’t sure how to get the recipe to you. It would have been far too much in a comment box if I’d written out the method, too.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. The Sock Mistress / Nov 16 2015 5:59 pm

    Fabulous art and heartbreaking about the war 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 16 2015 6:42 pm

      It’s a pity the world doesn’t know more about this war.


  21. (b)ananartista SBUFF / Nov 28 2015 1:39 am

    this is superart !

    Liked by 1 person

  22. yeahanotherblogger / Dec 5 2015 1:40 am

    “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing” — from the song written in 1969 by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. jollof / Dec 9 2015 5:43 pm

    These pics make me want to start drawing again. I particularly like the extreme mosquito killer with the rifle, lol. Shame you had to get used to, dare I say it, warm beer. There are some things Africans should never get used to otherwise warm becomes the norm.

    Do stop by again 😀


    • leggypeggy / Dec 9 2015 7:39 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I really enjoy your blog and hope you start drawing again.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Tesha / Feb 27 2016 10:31 pm

    I didn’t know about Belgian Congo. ❤ the first and last paintings


    • leggypeggy / Feb 27 2016 10:40 pm

      Belgian Congo has a sad history, like Congo does now. But the art is vibrant and often full of hope and humour.


  25. jeanleesworld / Jun 6 2016 9:15 pm

    Fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing this. This is a wealth of color and imagination from a place where we would presume only knows despair and heartache. Proof that the spirit can withstand any darkness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 6 2016 9:39 pm

      Hello Jean, I always love it when you drop by. You are so right about the resilience of the people in the Congo (DRC). This exhibit was so uplifting.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. J.D. / Jul 29 2021 7:18 am

    The paintings are simply electric. So full of life.

    Liked by 1 person

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