African art for an African audience
The residents of Goma in eastern DRC don’t take much interest in local artists and their work. Buying art remains a luxury only tourists can afford. But Congolese artists are determined to make their work accessible for all.
When artists from the city of Goma and North Kivu Province in eastern Congo recently organised an exhibition, they did so with the aim of spurring interest in the visual arts. The question arises whether there indeed was a ‘need’ for the exhibition. Is the local population not interested in art?
“I wouldn’t say not interested, says Polin Kausa. According to the 33-year-old artist, the reason people do not show interest in art is because they do not know the true value of an art work or how to acquire it.
One of the visitors at the exhibition was John Kakule, a Goma resident. “I am surprised to see that I too can afford to buy an original painting in my country,” he said. The paintings were offered at reasonable prices, according to Kausa. The art pieces cost between 13,500 Congolese francs (10.60 euros) and 270,000 Congolese francs (210 euros).
The main reason people are not interested in arts is because of their very limited financial means, says Kausa. “So we came up with a strategy: making quality art that is affordable at the same time. Initially, we want to sell them at a low promotional price in order to encourage people to buy local art.”
Source of inspiration
For the artists showing their work at the exhibition, art is an essential component of the slowly industrialising and modernising African society. “Art remains the only source of inspiration to reconstruct the life of our ancestors,” says John, an artist of the GFAC art collective (Great Artistic and Cultural Family).
Kausa also believes in preserving the Congolese traditions and culture: “Congolese art should keep its originality in the face of western modernism, which tends to replace old traditions.”
Impressionism and realism
According to the event coordinator, Mapendo Sumamuni, an artist should not be poor, given the importance of his work for society. “It is one of the main goals of this art show: first give the artists exposure, and then sell their work to the highest bidder.”
The artists, who describe their styles as realist and impressionist, are determined to make a name for themselves in their region, before considering exposing their work in Rwanda or Europe.