Francophone art touches down in Jozi

LEFT: je suis qu'une coquille vide parsemé dans un monde du pacotille II, I am an empty shell dotted in a junk world II, 2018 RIGHT: héros shayeur (vendeur ambulant dans un argot de Kinshasa) voilà où nous sommes ...alors je m'intéresse à ma survie shayeur hero (street vendor in a slang of Kinshasa) here we are ... so I'm interested in my survival, Hilaire Balu Kuyangiko, 2018
LEFT: je suis qu'une coquille vide parsemé dans un monde du pacotille II, I am an empty shell dotted in a junk world II, 2018 RIGHT: héros shayeur (vendeur ambulant dans un argot de Kinshasa) voilà où nous sommes ...alors je m'intéresse à ma survie shayeur hero (street vendor in a slang of Kinshasa) here we are ... so I'm interested in my survival, Hilaire Balu Kuyangiko, 2018
Image: Akona Kenqu

The city of gold has long held a reputation as a rich and vibrant melting pot of cultures and influences from Africa and all over the world. The history of art department at Wits, in partnership with the Waza Art Centre in Lubumbashi, DRC, has added a dash of vibrant Kinshasa artistic flavour to the urban landscape in the form of a residency and exhibition by contemporary artist Hilaire Balu Kuyangiko.

Nkisi Mangaaka faces Hulk, at the end of our agreements, Hilaire Balu Kuyangiko, 2018
Nkisi Mangaaka fait face à Hulk, au terme de nos accords, Nkisi Mangaaka faces Hulk, at the end of our agreements, Hilaire Balu Kuyangiko, 2018
Image: Akona Kenqu

The exhibition opened at The Point of Order on Thursday 1 November, and the turnout was impressive. The room was filled with artists, academics, socialites and students, all eager to meet the artist who has been here for a month producing a new collection of work for the show. Hilaire's sculptures are colourful blends of toys that you would recognise from your childhood (the hulk, spiderman) with carved wooden figures called Minkisi, which, within certain cultures, are used as devices to communicate with the spirit world. His paintings are larger than life, and equally colourful. The bright tones and bold gestures of his paintbrush evoke the culture of Kinshasa, his home city.

Strolling around the exhibition was an interesting experience. The curators of the show placed mirrors on the wall so that your reflection shines back at you as you try to look at the sculptures closely. On one plinth, a map of the old colonial routes was printed, which reminded me of the injustices and power imbalances imposed on Africa by the colonial powers.

If you're in the mood for something different and a taste of art, don't miss this show.

Anciens Dieux, Nouvelles Enigmes Old Gods New Enigmas runs until 8 November at the Point of Order exhibition space, cnr Bertha and Stiemens Streets, Braamfontein. Follow @WitsHistoryofArt on Facebook or @wits_history_of_art on insta to keep track of exhibition updates.

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