This research project aims to reconstruct a long history of painting and drawing in DRCongo by analysing three types of collections in the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) and the Royal Library of Belgium (KBR): - abstract geometric and realistic scenes in rock arts, on traditional objects such as calabashes and ivory horns, murals and paintings (Northeast Congo, 1900-1960); - paintings on sheets of paper by Albert and Antoinette Lubaki and Thsyela Ntendu (colonial province of Kasai, 1920s30s); - paintings with oil on paper and oil on canvas (Elisabethville and Leopoldville, 1940-50s). These collections were composed by (male) Westerners who tried to influence and control Congolese painting and/or to cherish an "authentic" Congolese painting tradition. These paintings were traditionally labelled as 'colonial' because of the use of western materials and/or the depiction of colonial society, even though they show important similarities to earlier geometric and decorative art forms associated with oral culture.
The general objectives and underlying research questions are:
- to reinscribe these artworks in a longer history of drawing by studying them in conjunction with tradition-based art forms from which they were separated as a result of colonial bias;
- to study the context in which the works were made and used in the colonial contact zone, and served as mnemotechnic devices and performative objects for Congolese;
- to study the paintings from the point of view of Congolese artists and Congolese publics, rather than from the perspective of the white (mostly male) “discoverers” and patrons of the artists.
- to analyse the reception history of these art works in world art in connection to early 20th century western art and design;
- to pay particular to female painters and western women involved in patronage networks.