Kin* by Night
Dolet MALALU WATEKO, born February 7, 1980, lives and works in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He was mistakenly introduced as “self-taught", yet he followed the teachings of the Academy of Fine Arts of Kinshasa integrated in 2000, after literary studies in Latin and Philosophy. He has exhibited since 2002 and his experience and education are particularly interesting, even if they can baffle us. Indeed, he is an artist in the full sense of the term, Dolet MALALU did not just paint.
He has exhibited and participated in events in multiple places, whether in Kinshasa, obviously, but also Strasbourg, Brazzaville, Pointe Noire, as well as Cameroon, Uganda, Italy, Belgium, Germany and Morocco! Two of his works successfully sold in a public auction at PIASA in Paris in 2018, dedicated to contemporary African art.
Not being in the vein of the "naive" artists who have made the success of the Kinshasa School a little overrated, Dolet MALALU attacks with strong works, organized in their disintegration that address the themes which are dear to him and, in spite of some tangents and false clues, they essentially refer to the "undermining" of this typically Kinois sartorial art which is at once a work of art, a manifesto, a religion and a way of being, of existing and of appearing.
A veritable instrument of recognition, “la sape", the fact of dressing in an extraordinarily original way, in garish tones and with implausible accessories, is for young Congolese men a way to assert their identity, their personality, their way of life, from party to celebration, on city nights and probably to deny the misery and the tragic hazards of life.
The "undermining" is also at the origin of many new words that have deviated “sapeur” from its usual sense, even the word "sapology" that he does not hesitate to call “Kitendi Religion”!
This way of life has influenced most contemporary Congolese artists who manifest themselves in their creations; with large frescoes depicting life and often nightlife, among the most famous are Chéri SAMBA or Chéri CHERIN, to name a few. In his original way, Dolet MALALU fits in their wake as for his themes, but does not look like them in his pictorial quest.
Inhabited by human characters who have a very strong presence, his canvases are often covered by graffiti, show men and women, together or separately, in the acts of urban life; in places and moments that a few clues, such as street signs, or the very titles of the works, reveal, without seeming to have any formal connection.
With their bulging eyes, detailed jaws, all gashed with raging paint, Jean-Michel BASQUIAT is not far away, but we can not talk about pastiche or inspiration, just some references, in the form of discrete homage.
Dolet MALALU has a tonic painting style that is fun to see and will retain its power and charm for a long time.
Francklin Mbungu was born in 1972 in Kinshasa (DRC) where lives and works.
Very different from traditional Congolese folk painting, which we know well, he cuts, assembles, folds, superimposes layers of paper, glues them with exceptional dexterity, and adds colored threads, ribbons and wrapping paper, thus creating almost three-dimensional works. We can take pleasure in finding characters, flowers and objects that all spring together to tell a story…their story.
This astonishing technique, allows him to create scenes where the tactile and visual sensations of volumes dominate. Because any material can be used to complete, highlight, emphasize and dress his paintings;v papers and fabrics, of course, but also a host of different materials (chains, strings, ribbons of all colors and all etc.) abundant and brilliant, the changeability of which contributes to the expressionism of his works. Through this sometimes confusing approach, he creates vibrant and colorful portraits of his Congolese compatriots, including the iconic “sapeurs".
Francklin MBUNGU is inspired both by the daily life and the mythology that permeates the experience of all Congolese, including the siren which is one of his recurring themes. His world is dreamlike and flamboyant. Very much marked by the aesthetics of the seventies, Mbungu often dresses his male characters in wide pants of multicolored elephants, shirts of garish colors and extravagant bow ties. As for women, they wear dresses and colorful headdresses that often showcase the shapes and textures of their hair. Francklin MBUNGU likes to represent street musicians, dancers in action or getting ready to go out to party.
In only a few years, this original artist has acquired a form of international recognition that has already given him exposure in many parts of the world.
Simplicity is not oversimplification, hidden under a misleading ease, beyond the technical virtuosity already evoked, is a vision of Kinois society; that of the street, that of the night, that of gaiety and the feast that hides the existential, sometimes elementary problems, which affect all African societies, under an apparent joy of living.
By making us dance and swirl to lose our breath, to lose consciousness, Francklin MBUNGU helps us to forget the present, far from our human condition, a moment of absence, and he makes us all feel very good.
Dolet Malalu & Francklin Mbungu
Contemporary and tribal African art