Cross-continental contemporary art exchange: Nafasi team visits Kin ArtStudio in Kinshasa, DRC
From 3-10 November, Nafasi’s Managing and Artistic Director Rebecca Corey and Visual Arts Manager Valerie Amani travelled from Dar es Salaam to Kinshasa, DRC for an exchange visit with Kin ArtStudio. The visit was made possible by Pro Helvetia Johannesburg (the Swiss Arts Council), which supports artist mobility and exchange in the SADC region. Both Nafasi and Kin Art were named Strategic Regional Partners by Pro Helvetia in 2018.
As a regional partner, Nafasi can invite three artists from the SADC region each year for fully-funded, month-long artist residencies in Dar-es-Salaam. Each artist presents their practice at a community “artist hangout”, offers a 3-5 day workshop on a topic in contemporary art, and has an exhibition at the end of the residency. In the first year of the project, two Congolese artists who have worked with Kin Art were selected, Serge Diakota Mabilama and Jean Katambayi Mukendi. The grant also supports yearly exchange visits for the administrative team to build collaborations with other regional centres and projects.
Kin ArtStudio, founded more than seven years ago by artist Vitshois Mwabilame Bondo, is an independent art centre that encourages creation in the field of visual arts and others form of contemporary expression, fostering exchanges with other artists and art initiatives throughout the world, strengthening young Congolese artists’ capacities, and professionalising the practice. Kin Art has innovated methods to implement contemporary artistic practices in a context where it is not obvious, yet emerging. The centre’s career development support to emerging artists through masterclasses, mentorship, exhibitions, publications, and pathways to international networks has helped foster a new generation of contemporary visual artists whose practices are rooted in Kinshasa yet connected with international conversations and markets.
In September 2018, Rebecca and Kin Art’s director Vitshois Mwabilame Bondo met for the first time in Johannesburg, South Africa for Terms of Engagement, a three day gathering for artists, curators and arts managers to participate in artistic encounters, exchanges, and reflections that was organised by Pro Helvetia Johannesburg and coincided with their 20 year anniversary. They used this opportunity to plan for the upcoming exchange visit.
In Kinshasa, the Nafasi team made a presentation on Nafasi and its member artists at Kin ArtStudio on 6 November, and at the Academie des Beaux-Arts on 9 November. They visited the Kin Art studios of artists Fransix Tenda Lomba, Aristote Mago Betsaleel, Alexandre Kyundu, Gael Kusa Kusa Maski, Joycenath Tshamala Ntumba, and attended the open studio of Nathan Mutelezi Maza, who creates large drawings using simple ball point pens that comment on the deleterious effects of social media on human interaction and relationships. The team also had a meeting with the Director and tour of the Institut Francais of Kinshasa and had the chance to visit the Musee National de Kinshasa (the National Museum).
Valerie Amani had this to say about the experience: ”Kinshasa is a vibrant city bursting with culture! The art definitely reflected this and I was inspired by how diverse and conceptualized it was. Alexandre Kyungu’s work stood out in particular because he used everyday objects, such as chairs, maps and doors, and transformed them into creations with depth, emotion and history. I learned about the importance of artistic support within cultural institutions and the local community. As Africans, art has always been an integral part of our daily lives. It was lovely to see how many of the Congolese youth were pursuing a career in art, and furthermore how many were sustaining themselves with it. It was a welcomed reminder of the validity of African art and that no matter how challenging the environment may be, there is a bright future and audience for African artists.”
Some of the Kin ArtStudio artists’ work:
Nafasi and Kin ArtStudio will build on their collaboration in the coming years by exchanging artists and staff, working on common projects, and sharing ideas and strategies for supporting the production of contemporary art in the region.