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Lot 57: * Tshibumba Kanda Matulu (Democratic Republic of Congo, born 1947) Seven oils: 42 x 63cm (16 9/16 x 24 13/16in) (6); 62 x 40cm (24 7/16 x 15 3/4in) (1) unstretched and unframed

Est: £2,000 GBP - £3,000 GBPSold:
Bonhams 3February 15, 2017London, United Kingdom

Item Overview


Tshibumba Kanda Matulu (Democratic Republic of Congo, born 1947)
Seven oils:
1. 'Stanley arrive au Congo avec les porteurs Angolais du malange'
2. 'Les Balubakat se revolterent contre leur chef (la mort du chef Kabongo)'
3. 'Attaque de l'O.N.U.'
4. 'Le grand chef Lumpungu pendu a Kabinda'
5. 'La mort de Bodson tue par m'siri a bunkeya au village bayeke'
6. 'Manifestation des etudiants a kin'
7. 'La revolte batetela'
all but one signed 'Tshibumba/ K.M.' and inscribed with titles (lower edge)
oil on canvas
42 x 63cm (16 9/16 x 24 13/16in) (6); 62 x 40cm (24 7/16 x 15 3/4in) (1)
unstretched and unframed

Tshibumba Kanda Matulu was born in 1947 in Lubumbashi, under Belgian rule. He originally intended to become a teacher, but his studies were interrupted by the violence following the Katanga secession in 1960. Determined to find an alternative way of educating his community, Tshibumba began to experiment with the medium of paint. His chief aim was to create a visual narrative documenting Congolese history from pre-colonial times to the present. An autodidact, Tshibumba had no formal artistic instruction. He finally established himself as a professional artist in 1969. His output was prodigious until 1981; no further works have appeared since then. It is not clear why the artist suddenly ceased production. Zaire suffered an economic crisis in the early 1980s; it is possible Tshibumba was simply responding to a decline in demand. Recent attempts to contact the artist have proved unsuccessful.

Tshibumba's aesthetic is an example of Popular Painting, a genre that emerged in Zaire in the 1920s. The style witnessed a resurgence after the Republic of Congo was granted independence in 1960. Young artists desired an aesthetic that expressed their distinct national identity. The self-taught artists who pioneered Popular Painting primarily depicted everyday occurrences in the urban centres of Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. Their naive style offered an alternative to the prevailing aesthetic taught in Western art academies. The Congolese artists of the 1960s and 70s began to create works that explored their ancestral origins, colonial history and aspirations for the newly-independent nation.

These seven paintings are from Tshibumba's narrative series The History of Zaire. They depict key moments in Congolese history, from the arrival of the British explorer Sir Henry Stanley to the massacre of university students by Mobutu's commandos. The works are highly personal interpretations, shaped by the artist's childhood experiences of Belgian rule. The series also openly criticizes President Mobutu, challenging the Second Republic's official narratives and exposing the regime's economic mismanagement and corruption.

Chronologically, the earliest event depicted is Sir Henry Stanley's arrival in the Congo. The moment was of great symbolic importance to the artist, representing the high point of European colonialism. Stanley and fellow explorers justified their presence in Africa through religion, dressing up their intervention as missionary work. Tshibumba's painting punctures this myth; Stanley dressed in pristine white clothes strides into Katanga whilst his black Congolese carriers struggle to keep up weighed down by his cases. Far from bringing enlightenment, the villagers flee in fear at the sight of Stanley.

Attaque de l'ONU depicts UN planes bombing the Gecamines mines at Lumbumbashi. Gecamines had witnessed the development of large Belgian settlements during colonial rule. When the Democratic Republic of Congo achieved independence in 1960, the election of Patrice Lumumba resulted in widespread discontent in the region. The mining region of Katanga formally seceded, causing Lumumba to appeal to the UN for assistance. Initially the UN opposed direct intervention; however, a force was deployed to quell the secessionist movement when Lumumba threatened to approach the Soviet Union.

One of the last paintings in the series, Manifestation des Etudiants a Kinshasa, depicts uniformed soldiers opening fire on unarmed students on the steps of Kinshasa University. The painting reveals Mobutu's use of military violence to suppress any form of political opposition.

S. Diop ed. 53 Echoes of Zaire: Popular Painting from Lubumbashi, DRC. Sulger-Buell Lovell Gallery & the Africa Centre exhibition catalogue (London, 2015) pp.19-71.
J. Fabian, Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire. (London, 1996).

Artist or Maker

Auction Details

Africa Now - Modern Africa

Bonhams 3
February 15, 2017, 02:00 PM GMT

101 New Bond Street, London, LDN, W1S 1SR, UK