Where to see Kinshasa’s most incredible art
The DRC’s capital has an emerging art scene you have to set your eyes on
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, is fast becoming recognised as one of Africa’s most energetic, emerging art scenes. Leading artists from the city are internationally renowned, such as painters Roger Botembe, Maître Nshole and Henri Kalama, and sculptors Freddy Tsimba and Géraldine Tobe, who appeared in Système K, a documentary about Kinshasa’s street art scene. Art collectives (often referring to themselves as Les ateliers réunis in the native French) are flourishing, and many artists are represented by galleries in France, Germany and global art markets. Kinshasa is undoubtably one to watch and these are the art institutions to keep an eye on.
The Congo Art Biennale will take place in Kinshasa in September – October 2022. The exhibition, titled “The Breath of Ancestors”, promises an exciting programme that will showcase international, contemporary art from a wide span of countries including Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and the USA, as well as displaying works by esteemed local artists. You’ll be able to see pieces by the likes of sculptor Lucie Kamswekera, performance artist Sarah Mukadi, and photographer/mixed media artist Rachel Malaika.
372 Avenue Colonel Mondjiba, Quartier Basoko, Commune de Ngaliema
The organisation behind the Congo Biennale, Kin ArtStudio (KAS) is an independent, non-profit visual arts organisation that fosters exchanges with artists and galleries around the world, strengthening the capacities of young Congolese artists by professionalising artistic practice. The man behind Kin ArtStudio (KAS), Vitshois Mwilambwe Bondo, works as an artist, curator and cultural worker, and has helped KAS go from strength to strength since he established it in 2011. The former textile factory, now hosts artists’ studios, offices, project spaces, a library, technical workshops and a bistro-restaurant.
372 Ave Colonel Mondjiba
Texaf Bilembo Cultural Centre is an arts and educational space, based in a vast, disused textile factory since opening in 2013. Launched by art historian Chantal Tombu and writer / photographer Alain Huart, the organisation aims to introduce the world to the natural and cultural heritage of the Democratic Republic of Congo, showing a dynamic programme of temporary exhibitions as well as acting as a gallerist for up-and-coming local artists. The space also hosts school visits, run by a busy educational team who deliver 300 workshops to roughly 1,800 students from their local partner schools.
1 Ave Colonel Mondjiba
Opened as recently as 2019, this huge national museum was designed by Junglim Architecture and houses a stunning collection of art and artefacts from the DRC’s rich history. Unlike many huge national museums however, the institution also hosts contemporary art exhibitions, such as To Sangana 3, an annual show that opened in March 2022.
The capital’s art school, Academie Des Beaux-Arts, trains the DRC’s creatives (all the artists mentioned in this article are alumni) providing a nurturing environment for young artists to develop their practice. The academy also hosts a great programme of events, from talks and screenings to exhibitions and is a great spot to scope out emerging talent. The school is headed by renowned artist Kalama, aka Prof. Henri Kalama Akulez, PhD., who has been part of the institution since 1996 as a student, professor and head of the oil painting department, before taking the role of chancellor.
Ex. 24 novembre, C, Av. Pierre Mulele
Facebook: Académie des Beaux-Arts de Kinshasa – officiel
Kalama’s paintings have been exhibited all around the world, and his atelier (studio) Kalama-les ateliers réunis has been promoting promising artists from the DRC since 2007. The objective of Kalama’s space is to challenge stereotypes of what art from the DCR is and looks like by encouraging the artists in residence to fully express their inner conceptual worlds and create works of international standard.
Avenue Commando 4Bis, Kinsuka Pêcheurs, Commune de Ngaliema
One of Kinshasa’s longest standing arts organisations, La Symphonie des Arts is a well-respected gallery that exhibits a permanent collection of Congolese artists amidst a lush green garden full of flora, fauna (look for the peacocks) and waterfalls. The collection brings together paintings and sculptures in bronze, ceramics and wood, as well as mixed media. Founded by gallerist Christa Göpfert to promote Congolese professional artists, the gallery also sells art from their space and was one of the first to display works by big names such as Botembe, Kalama and Nshole.
15 Av. de L’avenir