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Congo in Cartoons in the Tropenmuseum

The Amsterdam KIT Tropenmuseum acquired 102 paintings by Tshibumba Kanda Matulu in 2000. This painter from Congo made all of the paintings in 1973, within a period of two months.


Lumamba delivers his famous speech, 1973, acrylic on canvas, 44 x 69 cm.

 

The Amsterdam KIT Tropenmuseum acquired 102 paintings by Tshibumba Kanda Matulu in 2000. This painter from Congo made all of the paintings in 1973, within a period of two months.

In a relatively simple, cartoon-like style, often with a few lines of text as explanation, Tshibumba chronologically shows the turbulent history of Congo in detail. The paintings start far before the colonisation, 'when people still knew how to live'. His paintings about Belgium’s self-appropriation of Congo, the resistance to this and the ultimate battle for independence are critical. Tshibumba has painted facts, stories and rumours to get viewers to think.

His work belongs in the tradition of African popular art. This style is situated between traditional African art and modern, academic art. Paul Faber is Africa conservator at the Tropenmuseum. He says: 'This is art that belongs to the culture of the masses and that is made and used by the local inhabitants.'

Popular art blossomed in the urban environment and the style is derived from posters, billboards and ads. The images are realistic and the subject is more important than the esthetics. The paintings are not made simply for viewing, but for discussions.

Tshibumba’s series did not end in 1974. The last paintings tell about a dream that he had regarding the future. Although he believed in the peace and prosperity that new leader Mobutu would bring, Tshibumba was afraid of over-population, loss of civilisation and exchanging religion for party politics. No trace of him has been found since 1981. It is believed he may have been killed during rioting.

Marrigje de Bok

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