DR Congo

States of the Arts



by Antoinette Lubaki

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Painting by night, Antoinette Lubaki and her husband would tell tales in the form of watercolours, creating the oldest extant Congolese art to be preserved on paper. Lubaki’s nocturnal productivity is reflected in an oeuvre that favours dreamlike depictions of village life, each populated with figures of nature. In this untitled piece, a pangolin is watched by a curious francolin, the fine lines of the two animals contrasting with the speckled leaves and geometric strokes of the tree branches. A faint grey border contains the image, framing the scene as both artwork and story.

Words by John Wadsworth

Life is Rosy

directed by Mwezé Ngangura & Benoît Lamy
Feature film

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Blankness dissipates to reveal a lone man, plucking an mbira, drifting along a dusty track. A boy spots the distant rambler, and calls others to gather for a communal celebration of sound and dance. The arriving man, an ambitious musician named Kourou, leads the performance. Dreaming of stardom, his aspirations take him to the capital, Kinshasa, where his musical mettle is put to the test. The city’s hippest venues offer exactly the kind of platform he craves, but financial hardship is a constant threat; only the greatest have what it takes to reach the top.

Words by Hugh Maloney

In the Silence of Hearts

by Kama Sywor Kamanda

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The infatuated narrator of ‘In the Silence of Hearts’ exalts the woman whom he loves, spinning images of abstract realms in an attempt to convey her effect on him. He drifts on ‘an infinite sea’, rises ever higher towards a burning sun, is lost in night and drowned by light. His warm sentiments are offset by harsher climes: the ‘fears on the flanks of wind’, the ‘gulfs of bitterness’. Each broad analogy denotes one of many dimensions, the soft and smitten heart denying singularity. Instead, the narrator remains enveloped in welcome paradoxes, savouring the shelter that they provide.

Words by Hugh Maloney


by Mbongwana Star

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‘Malukayi’ greets us with an aural ambush. Metal clashes as cymbals are struck in furious repetition. A snare drum is tapped, receding only to make space for additional instruments. A running motif played on a likembé appears, its fleeting notes strained by electronic distortions. It loops impatiently, subtly changing shape, matching the frenetic haste of the rhythm section. Amid this busy traffic, voices call out, some in short, yelled exclamations, others in rounded phrases. One reverberates distantly, another is crisp and clear. Each lively vocalisation seems to emanate from a different part of the track's vast sonic space.

Words by Hugh Maloney

More to discover

Untitled (Antoinette Lubaki): This artwork was included in Fondation Cartier's 2015 exhibition of art from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ali Morris has written about the exhibition for Wallpaper*, as has Hannah Ellis-Petersen for The Guardian. You can also view other works from the exhibition in a gallery on The Guardian website.

Life is Rosy: You can view the trailer here, and watch the full film here. You can read about the film on the Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear blog.

In the Silence of Hearts: You can read the poem here, and read more poems from Kama Sywor Kamanda here.

Malukayi: You can listen to the song here, and read an interview with the group by Tim Jonze for The Guardian.

Question of the day

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