Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga’s painting reflects the creative energy and contradictions of life in contemporary Kinshasa. Striking classical poses and draped in sumptuously rendered fabrics, the figures in his paintings are frequently depicted alongside ritual objects that have fallen out of use, while their skin is adorned with patterns reminiscent of computer chips – a reference to coltan, the raw material exported in vast quantities from the DRC for use in modern technologies worldwide. Thanks to their complex interweaving of contemporary Congolese life with motifs drawn from both local and global histories, these are works with technical finesse and symbolic heft. Kamuanga Ilunga has spoken of his desire to ‘understand the present through the past’, an impulse which has led him to make a series of works about the connections between European porcelain and the Atlantic slave trade (Fragile Responsibility, 2018), and another about the history of the Mangetu peoples of north-east Congo, who were renowned for their resistance against Belgian colonialists, yet continue to suffer discrimination today.
Kamuanga Ilunga studied briefly at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa, abandoning his studies to help form the M’Pongo group of young Congolese artists. His work has been shown across Africa, notably in the ‘OFF’ section of the Dak’Art Biennale in 2014, and has been included in exhibitions in Europe and the United States at institutions such as the Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
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