IN THIS ISSUE
Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga’s Vibrant Reconstructions of History
Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga’s paintings bear similarities to 19th-century neo-classical art in their classical poses and convoluted, realistically rendered draperies, a testament to his training in the 19th-century style of formal figuration taught at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa where Ilunga enrolled before abandoning his studies in 2011. However, all similarities end there. Ilunga’s paintings can best be described as plain grey canvases populated with hybrid, ‘sci-fi’ bodies, ideographic symbols, bright swathes of “African” print fabrics, brightly coloured slippers and ritual objects.
Working primarily in oil and acrylic from photographs of scenes posed with live models, Ilunga’s work explores the history of globalisation and colonialism and their effect on the economic, political and social identity of present-day Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Like most African countries, the DRC, in favour of globalisation and European religious practices (a relic from the colonial era) is eschewing its multi-ethnic indigenous heritage and traditional culture. This loss of tradition and “African Consciousness” is what the artist bemoans and strives to preserve in his series. His rejection of European-style academic art study and consequently establishing M’Pongo, a group studio where a diverse set of young artists share ideas and exhibit together to generate their own vibrant scene, lends a material richness to his work, culminating in a sort of synthesis between cultures, and between traditional and contemporary forms.