Congolese street art in berlin: friendly takeover from kinshasa

At Kunsthaus Acud, German and Congolese artists* collaborate to bring Congolese street art to Berlin.

Orakle Ngoy (l.), Lucile de Witte, Lova Lova, Matti Schulz and Chris Shongo occupy the Acud Photo: Jan Durina/Acud macht neu

In the courtyard of the Acud art house, there is a long table, the smell of beans and chicken. In the background, Orakle Ngoy shows a music video. The rapper from Congo combines lines in French and the traditional language Lingala: Her songs are about violence against women in her village, among other things. The style seems aggressive, determined. Congolese music is strongly influenced by rumba, but for some years now hip hop has been on the rise.

Six artists* from the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo and from Berlin have been occupying Kunsthaus Acud since August in a friendly takeover. Their project is called Yambi. They want to bring the performative art of Kinshasa to the streets of Berlin. "In Kinshasa, artists are there for the people, they enjoy a high reputation," explains Matti Schulz. Art takes place on the street, where everyone can enjoy it.

About 50 guests came to the Fufu dinner on Monday evening and discussed with each other in French, English and German. "Fufu is a staple food in Congo," says Matti Schulz. It is made from cassava and corn flour and pressed into balls. Side dishes include beans, spinach, cassava and chicken thighs. He learned about fufu in Kinshasa when he worked there as an artist two years ago.

During his time in Kinshasa, he met the other artists. They became friends and came up with the idea of organizing an artistic exchange. Schulz is a visual artist who creates sculptures. Henrike Naumann is also part of the project. She presents a film project about the Sapeurs, a street movement in Kinshasa. And documents the project with the other artists*.

The exhibition at Acud macht neu, Veteranenstr. 21, will open on August 30 at 6 pm. It will then be on view there until September 14, from Thursday to Saturday, 2 to 7 pm.

Art is often political in Kinshasa.

"Yambi means welcome," says Chris Shongo. He is a designer and photographer. His art is created from recycled everyday objects; his latest costume is made from water bags. "I put things in a new context," he says. His art is political, which is not uncommon in Kinshasa: In addition to graffiti in Kinshasa’s streets, he has also made photo series with people with albinism or street children. "I represent them through my art and create a platform," he says.

Wilfried Luzele Vuvu aka Lova Lova is a singer and Ngunza guru. He tries to combine colorful melodies and rhythms from rock, rumba or ragga with traditional influences. His music ranges from loud chanting to melodic parts in which he sings himself into a trance. "With the loud shouts, I summon the ancestors," he says. Along the way, he creates objects out of various materials that he uses as jewelry for his performances. His trademark is a pair of glasses made from two cans of corn.

Lucile de Witte was born in France, but now makes his home in Kinshasa. For the exhibition she has created a sculpture that is meant to remind of a statue in Kinshasa: It represents two hands holding a globe. She will explain the symbolism at the opening. She will also practice the Congolese national anthem on a miniature piano. "I’m sure I’m going to get lost, but this symbolizes my attempts at integration," she says.

The project is sponsored by the Goethe-Institut. The concept envisions: Initially, the artists* live under one roof, alongside which they organize events and concerts. Each artist works independently, and a collective emerges from the individual works: in the Acud Gallery, in the courtyard and on the street. Work will continue at the Kunsthaus until the exhibition opens on August 30. In December, the exhibition will also be shown in Kinshasa.

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