The possibility of understanding, of cultures, societies, communities and places, rises from the framework and perspective from which we begin. The possibility of recontextualisation or reinterpretation is made wholly more exciting when this reconsideration can be guided by first-hand, self-reflexive or introspective work – whether that comes from an individual or communal interaction. Darkness Rising is such an opportunity – to receive and engage with a collection of work by artists from the Congo, whose work investigates and explores different aspects of their experiences or their relation to the country.
Many of us receive information about the happenings in The Congo through the media. The information is received with the understanding that there is implied bias that often misses nuance and personal impact. The artists – residents of the country or of Congolese backgrounds, gathered in this exhibition – add shape and perspective to the magnitude of the context and lived experiences of the country. Darkness Rising, as a curated group exhibition, along with each individual artists voice, opens the opportunity for different narratives to be heard and to alter current understandings and assumptions.
With Darkness Rising, a conversation takes place, taking on the form of a group exhibition inspired by the tricky balance between the ongoing crises in the Congo and its different aspects of cultural production and expression. Across the work exhibited there is a celebration of creation that illustrates aspects that make up the unique heritage and distinctive aesthetics of the Congo. With work by various artists across different mediums, contemporary creative expressions of the region are shown through distinctive styles, wide ranges of colours, as well as themes passed down from generation to generation that people of the community consider as culturally definitive traits.
The work of Ley Mboramwe and Thonton Kabeya creates a conversation about the journeys they have embarked on, expressed through their work and the dynamics they illustrate through the play of abstraction in figurative images. Ley Mboramwe’s vigorous burst of lines and colours on canvas activate a kind of energy within the room that calls for attention, His participation in group exhibitions, art fairs and solo exhibitions has traced his creative trajectory as he grappled with his memories and experiences of the Congo, his childhood in the country and the landscape he has had to leave behind. He uses his work to reflect on and remain aware of current social and political circumstances, while not forgetting the socio-political influences of the past. Using what’s happening around him as stimuli, Mboramwe creates a sense of emotional drive and connection both personally and conceptually through his paintings. He demonstrates an eagerness to share and command his own narrative through his work.
In Thonton Kabeya’s mixed media artworks he repurposes and reimagiines materials and objects. Kabeya challenges perceptions through the layering of perspectives. Having created work along the juxtapositions of urban and rural contexts, in this exhibition Kabeya reveals the precarity and vulnerability of the individual in the Congo. His work grows out of his exploration of the cities he’s experienced, having studied in Lubumbashi, living in Johanesburg and visited other European cities, and the related conflicts of these spaces – both politically and artistically. His work extends the dimensionality of framed works, expanding sculpturally and challenging mediums as he uses his creations work to illustrate the experiences of the chaos of individuality amongst masses.
The works in this exhibition are vast, complex and specifically individual, offering various vantage points from which to examine or query the complexities of the ongoing crisis in congo but also the creativity and lived realities of those who have borne witness to it in their various ways. While the unknown has often been presented as a darkness to be feared or withdrawn from, darkness rises in this exhibition to reveal an invitation, into thoughts, pain, celebrations and understandings. Held within the unknown there is possibility, potential and beauty. As the click of a camera allows only a glimpse of light into an otherwise dark chamber, or the hollow of a string instrument carries its sounds, perhaps darkness is imbued with a kind of fullness that when embraced can recover and realise possibilities.