Last weeks bookmarket brought a surprise. There was this catalogue published by KIT on the dramatic history of the Congo as painted by Tshibumba Kanda Matulu / TKM.
This catalogue/book is now available at www.ftn-books.com
TKM was born in Élisabethville (modern-day Lubumbashi), in the south of the Belgian Congo, in 1947. TKM worked within the period of cultural authenticité in the 1970s. TKM was one of the leading figures of “African genre painting” which had emerged in the Belgian Congo in the late 1950s and which integrated both European and Congolese styles and techniques.
TKM’s best-known paintings form part of a series of 107 works commissioned by the German anthropologist Johannes Fabian to illustrate Congolese history as it appeared in national collective memory. The series was produced between 1974 and 1976 and forms the body of TKM’s work and was used as the basis for an academic collaboration between the two. The result, Remembering the Present: Paintings and popular history in Zaire, was published in 1996. TKM viewed the purpose of the book as presenting the history of his country to a child born in the country. by contrast, Fabian presents it as an anthropological work for Western study.
Among the scenes depicted by TKM was the Elisabethville Massacre of 1941, Patrice Lumumba’s independence speech of 30 June 1960, the introduction of culture obligatoire farming, and the trial of the religious leader Simon Kimbangu by the Belgian colonial authorities in 1921. All the paintings were made at the time of the Shaba Invasions during which TKM’s native province of Shaba witnessed widespread political instability.
The work is historically significant because of the interviews between Fabian and TKM included in the work. In those interviews, TKM subtly critiques the government of Mobutu Sese Seko, making statements such as “What Mobutu has in mind is true – or else it is a lie. But that’s something I keep to myself. What is true is that he started out with ideas that were correct. So he spoke and we all agreed; not a single thing was disputed.”
The work also emphasizes TKM’s admiration of Patrice Lumumba, particularly in the use of deliberate Christ imagery in the paintings of Lumumba, specifically mirroring Jesus’ wounds after the crucifixion. The parallel is so clear that Fabian names the section “The Passion of Patrice Lumumba,” a reference to “The Passion of the Christ.”
102 of TKM’s paintings were purchased by the Tropenmuseum, an ethnographic museum in Amsterdam, in 2000
TKM disappeared in 1981 and is believed to have been killed in rioting.
So far the history of this African artist. Personally i think this is an important oeuvre although i have doubts about the artistic value. Still …ALL of the paintings have a strong power and presence and perhaps that is what great art always is.