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The streets of Kinsasha, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are rich with the works of a number of young artists. Agence Française de Développement is currently spotlighting several of them via an exhibit at its head office. Géraldine Tobé, Michel Eka, Widjo Wiyombo and others all accepted AFD’s invitation. Whether their creations be dark or bright, stark or just weird, they always bear political, social, and cultural messages and give us a glimpse of a capital city where the art of survival is becoming art in and of itself.

Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is staunchly committed to conveying the vitality and innovative spirit that flows through Africa. That’s why it is hosting—for the first time ever at its head office—an exhibition entirely devoted to contemporary African creation. Here, we take a look at some of that art...

Further reading:

PDF file on the entire exhibition (in French)

This exhibit spotlights Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and home to one of Africa’s vibrant art scenes. There, under the tutelage of Freddy Tsimba, an artist internationally known for his monumental sculptures, a whole new generation of artists is seizing upon the history of their people and their country. For example, there’s Géraldine Tobé, the new darling of European galleries and museums: smoke and soot act as her brush, providing a tragic reminder of the forced exorcisms she suffered in her childhood. There’s also Dolet Malalu, who focuses on Kinshasa youth and their extravagant behavior. In all, five artists give their interpretation—sometimes dark and sometimes joyful—of a city where art is concocted on every street corner.

uppeteer Widjpo Wiyombo and his marionettes, kinshasa

Puppeteer Widjpo Wiyombo and his marionettes © Renaud Barret

Widjo Wiyombo’s giant marionettes and their accompanying body movements haunt Kinshasa’s streets and city squares. With them, he has turned a street tradition into an art, which he passes on to children at his own school several kilometers outside the city.


Géraldine Tobé, Courir vers, Smoke + acrylic paint on canvas, kinshasa

Géraldine Tobé, Courir vers, Smoke + acrylic paint on canvas, 109.5 cm × 110.5 cm

The artist Géraldine Tobé was the talk of the last Dakar Biennale. Her paintings reveal work that’s dark like the smoke and soot that she uses as a brush. Her technique reflects the traumatic experiences of the forced exorcism sessions she suffered as a child.


Dolet Malalu, Le Combat, Canvas, kinshasa

Dolet Malalu, Le Combat, Canvas, 130 × 97 cm

The artist Dolet Malalu is well-known in international circles. This painting depicts the legendary fight between Mohamed Ali and George Foreman, held in Kinshasa on October 30, 1974.


Sacrifice/Le Diable est innocent, kinshasa

Sacrifice/Le Diable est innocent © Renaud Barret

In his urban performances, Strombo Kayumba connects the dots between the corruption poisoning his country and the takeover of minds by evangelist churches.

Kinshasa, Lingwala Municipality


La Guitare Lan-Gong, kinshasa

La Guitare Lan-Gong © Renaud Barret

Boms Liteli, member of the KOKOKO ! collective, is an instrument designer. In his open-air workshop, he builds unique specimens that he experimentally electrifies in order to invent original electronic music that is now exported to the international stage.

Kinshasa, Ngwaka district


Les Justiciers de la sape, kinshasa

Les Justiciers de la sape © Renaud Barret

La sape (“Society of Ambiance-making People of Elegance”) is a subculture of fancy dressers. The members of this collective of “sapper-performers” design and create their own clothes, seeking inspiration from Japanese fashion designers such as Yoji Yamamoto and Kenzo. Here they pay tribute to the late musician Papa Wamba, “the Prince of Sape,” by copying some of his most iconic stage poses.

Kinshasa, Bandal district

Further reading:

The Development Agora

AFD Digital Challenge: 15 Start-Ups in the Starting Blocks

Lead Campus: Working Today To Train the Leaders of Tomorrow