WHAT’S THE BITE?
Congolese art comes to Paris at the Fondation Cartier, one of the most prestigious centers of contemporary art, until January 2016. Beauté Congo 1926-2015 is an exhibition of visual arts, music and photography which works backwards, beginning with the contemporary work of some current artists and ending on a series of precursor paintings dating back to 1926.
As most pieces were safeguarded in private collections throughout Europe and Africa, this marks the first time they are on display. Within the stunning center, which boasts floor to ceiling windows and peeks over a pebble studded garden, the eclectic collection of art mesmerizes.
By the way, the origin of this collection is the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex-Belgian colony) and not the Republic of the Congo or Congo-Brazzaville (ex-French colony).
WHY DO WE CARE?
Even though the French were not in the Democratic of Congo, France was involved in 32 of the 54 countries found on the African continent, and their relationship with (some or all) them was not based on exchanging cordialities and Christmas gifts. Let’s be honest, the French were very naughty but, through political, economic and cultural connections, France encourages a last bastion of prestige and influence in Francophone Africa. For fear of erring on the side of cynicism, there are also positive vestiges of the French presence throughout Africa, ones that transcend the fact that baguettes are sold on every corner in Niamey.
Whether in the Congo, Rwanda or Namibia, exciting movements in African fashion, architecture, entrepreneurship, and investment opportunities are prolific. Take a look at the wonders of design in South Africa, the technology advances in Rwanda, or the spending power of the largest growing middle class! Counter that with the French economy that is taking une petite sieste and who can help but be excited?
WHY DON’T OTHERS CARE?
Tin-tin and his adventures are so passé for many people. Why explore cultures that are so utterly far away and incomprehensibly exotic when Cap Ferret (or is it Cap Ferrat? I always forget) is so close to Paris. And if the French have a change of heart, Club Med in Morocco is daringly African, right?
WHAT’S THE IMPACT ON US IN THE LAND OF CROISSANTS?
Art unifies people. Throw in some canapés, champagne, and highbrow chit chatter set to the tune of Stromae in an elegant setting and people move beyond the occasionally contentious relationship between the European and African continents.
Inspired by political or cultural events, the amazingly diverse styles of artwork range from childlike sketches to playful photographs, to abstract designs, to detailed portraits. While emitting serious messages, they also alternate between humor, beauty and sensuality. Perhaps it will serve as an impetus for Congolese living in France to more easily champion their artists and their history.