#Tribe16 International Art Festival in Bermondsey

1-2 October 2016

I had my second experience with Ange Mukeza‘s work at the #Tribe16 International Art Festival in Bermondsey. The two-days event, organized by Chrom-Art, involved over 120 international and UK-based artists from the world of contemporary art, music, dance and performance. The ‘living exhibition’ was held in a beautiful Victorian warehouse spanning over three floors and five different areas. I loved that place and the contrast with the modern Shard close to it.

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Ange was working at the third floor, besides other ‘interactive’ artists. For this occasion, she decided to focus on children and give them the possibility to participate. She confessed how much she enjoy working with children mostly because “they are not scared of anything, even though you have to control them!”

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Differently from before, this time she had divided the canvas with asymmetric frames, to differentiate the composition and create different landscapes.

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Previous Ange’s artwork was also exposed at the festival. The first painting, located at the same floor, was produced during another Art Festival called ArtRooms 2016 at the Melia White House hotel. This was a collaboration just between Ange and an adult audience.

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Other two paintings, located at the second floor, were also a product of interaction between the artist and adult audience. The first, entitled #Beyond the Image, was produced at the Espacio Gallery in Shoreditch. The second, was the material result of a great event at the Nomadic community gardens, which I have previously described in this blog.

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Those paintings (and more others) are part of a series called WonderWorld, which is a direct collaboration between Ange and the public. Ange’s objective is to involve the audience to leave a personal mark, a contribution to the canvas, in order to share the performance of creating art work.

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As she explained, she started this new interactive approach mostly because she felt bored to work alone in a studio and she was looking for a more dynamic experience. Her goal is to find a lively dialogue with the audience, without omitting her own contribution.

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‘They Drink It in the Congo’ at Almeida theatre in Islington

1st October 2016

Despite the wide cultural opportunities that London offers, it is quite uncommon to find events – especially theater plays – entirely dedicated to the DRC. When I discover ‘They Drink It in the Congo’ at Almeida theatre, I was extremely curios  to attend and, why not, make some interesting contacts.

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The story focuses on Stef, a white campaign coordinator, who aims to organize a Congolese cultural festival in London, “Congo Voice”, in order to create awareness about the problems in the DRC. Despite her good intentions, she encounters numerous obstacles from the deeply divided Congolese diaspora and, particularly, from the radical political group called Les Combattants.

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Overall, I enjoyed the ironic and sensitive work of Adam Brace. He has successfully brought up some very important issues which are contemporary but not enough know. I particularly enjoyed how Adam was able to underline, through a switch between present and past, the permanent hypocrisy which is behind a long and painful relationship between the DRC and the West. Mostly, the sense of guilt that Western people (or some of them) have towards the African continent.

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As a critical point, I would have avoided the shallow and quite useless personal relationship between Stef and her ex-boyfriend, an event consultant. I understand that probably Adam wanted to alleviate the show, adding a sentimental bit to it. However, I think, his very strong comedian approach during most of the play would have been enough for that. Also, I was quite disappointed to discover that none of the actors/actresses/musicians is actually from Congolese heritage. It was a negative point for my research but, at the same time, I appreciated the challenge of wanting to tell an international story which is so rarely represented.

KASAI MASAI at Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston

23rd September 2016

The Vortex Jazz Club, part of Dalston Culture House, is one of the best place to listen live music while drinking red wine. It is a very intimate venue, with wide-lateral windows through which is possible to observe the eventful Gillet Square from the top.

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Despite the club is mostly dedicated to jazz music, that night the show was performed by the Congolese band called Kasai Masai. Their music, based on a fusion of traditional Congolese Soukous, Rumba and Funk styles, creates an incredible fast-paced rhythm!

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That night, their original Urban Equatorial Funk genre made the audience dance with energy and passion. At the end of the gig I spoke with the percussionist, singer and dancer, Nickens Nkoso, and the guitarist, Otis Tabasenge Lumumba, who seemed happy to collaborate on my research.img_7040

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KONONO NO. 1 + KONGO DIA NTOTILA at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation in Shoreditch

30th July 2016

The moment I discovered that the great Congolese band Konono No.1 from Kinshasa was returning to London, I immediately bought a ticket for the show at the Rich Mix in Shoreditch. Their music, based on a vibrant combination of traditional, electronic and rock sounds, was accompanied by strong voices and energetic dances. As a result, they were able to electrify the whole venue!

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 In addition, that night I also had the pleasure to discover a musical group which I didn’t know before, the Kongo Dia Ntotila. They opened the show as Konono No.1 supporting band. They are composed by two Congolese musicians and three other musicians with different backgrounds. Their music mixes Central African rhythms with jazz style, creating a curios blend of different cultures.

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At the end of the gigs, I had a nice conversation with Mulele Matondo Africa, Congolese solo artist and bassist of the Kongo Dia Ntotila. I was very happy to find out that the band is based in London and would like to be involved with my research.

Chestnut launch day in West Croydon

16th July 2016

I met Sheeda Queen, born Priska Kibala, for the first time almost six months ago. She is a lovely young Congolese writer who has published her first work entitled Chestnut. The book present the adventures of Maleka, a young girl originally from Angola who, after her dear aunt’s death, suddenly find herself to survive alone in South London. It is a story of struggle, strength and search for identity; alleviated by a colloquial language and a strong sense of humor. Despite the book is a fiction novel, I found many similarities with Priska’s life story and personal character.

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Reading her voice has made me feel personally closer to Priska and this is why I decided to participate to the Chestnut promotional event. She organized a stand with banners, flyers and business cards in one of the main pedestrian streets in the heart of West Croydon. I spent the morning with Priska, her family and friends, from whom she is very much loved. Together we had much fun trying to attract people and advertise her work.

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1st Birthday for Nomadic community Gardens in Shoreditch

1st May 2016

The Nomadic Community Gardens transforms marginal, disused and unhealthy spaces into urban gardens where people can grow their own product, share abilities and produce art. The community is based close to Brick Lane, in Shoreditch, in a space between two overground lines which was previously inhabited by drug users and alcoholics. The community work has completely regenerated the area, giving birth to plants, flowers and creativity.

I visited the place during the Nomadic Community Gardens 1st Birthday celebration, one year since they started making use of the space. They organized a joyful event, bringing the festival into the city by making use of every inch of the gardens in a creative, artistic and interactive way. They called visual and graffiti artists, musicians, face painters, jugglers and more to participate.

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It was here where I first got to see Ange Mukeza in action.  She is a brilliant Congolese visual artist, who loves to create (or re-create) art through the interaction with the audience. I spent the day chatting with Ange and observing the way she convinced people to contribute to her work-in-progress.

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Ange asking me to leave my mark!

For that occasion, she had brought a painting which she had produced four years earlier and she wanted to re-work on. She was asking to everyone who was passing by to participate, to make a personal mark on the painting. The audience was very international, mainly formed by young people (“to cool for school” as Ange said), tourists, locals who knew about the Nomadic community, families and children. Sometimes Ange would leave people “painting” alone, but most of the time she would have long conversations while painting with them. Not everyone was stopping by but a great majority was curious to try out the experience.

Later, Ange explained to me that art is for her a therapeutic process. Choosing to make people painting on her piece was her way to show that her feelings were moving forwards, constantly changing. She did not have bad memories related to that particular painting, she just felt the necessity to transform through the collaboration of others.

Strangely that day I did not encounter other Congolese, a part from Ange sister, Desibell, who had a stall of her own and was selling her products from Hiliveloveurlifestyle. I soon realized that Ange is an outsider and interesting character to discover.

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