“A Congo Chronicle: Patrice Lumumba in Urban Art” Exhibit

Opening Reception September 12 Features International Expert

Madison, NJ (August 18, 2005) — “A Congo Chronicle: Patrice Lumumba in Urban Art” is an exhibit of approximately 25 paintings in the Congolese Urban Art genre, portraying the life and tragic death of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Congo after its independence from Belgium in 1960.

The exhibit, originally organized by the Museum for African Art in New York, opens on September 9, 2005, at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s College at Florham Library. Free and open to the public during library hours, the exhibit runs through October 30, 2005. Additional paintings will also be on exhibit at Drew University during the same time period and there will be joint programming of events related to the exhibition.

On Monday, September 12 at 2 p.m., an opening reception will feature a presentation by Bogumil Jewsiewicki Koss of Laval University, Quebec, a leading international expert in the contemporary history of the Congo and in Congolese folk art. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Comparative History of Memory, specializing in French-speaking Central Africa. The exhibition at the Museum for African Art in New York was guest curated by Professor Jewsiewicki.

This exhibit celebrates the significance of urban art, traceable to colonial academies established during the 1940s to train Africans in the fine arts. Their portrayal of recognizable themes reflects the social and political context of the day. This mix of historical documentation and idealism gives the viewer insight into the popular politics of an era.

Included in this exhibition are paintings by Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu, an influential artist of the 1970’s, and a number of more recent works by other contemporary Congolese artists who subsequently emulated his style. These popular paintings, whose subjects reflect the patrons’ tastes, demonstrate the power to turn images and, specifically, memories of Lumumba, into a visual history of a cultural hero.

These popular depictions of Patrice Lumumba exemplify the Congolese tradition of venerating cultural heroes in art. Just as classical African sculptures portrayed heroic ancestors, urban art helped transform Lumumba into a powerful symbol. He embodies the dream of unity, democracy, and independence despite being largely omitted from official written Congolese (Zairian) histories. With the recent upheavals in the Congolese political leadership and social fabric, this exhibition is a timely examination not only of how Lumumba became a Congolese hero, but also an African, and African-American, hero as well.

Professor Jewsiewicki wrote the accompanying full-color catalogue. Essays by contributing scholars Jean Omasombo Tshonda, Myunda ya Rubango, Dibwe dia Mwembu, and Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen R. Roberts, discuss popular Urban Art, the life of Patrice Lumumba, Tshibumba’s series of Lumumba paintings, the Congolese memory of Lumumba, and Congolese cultural heroes.

Support for the creation of the exhibition was received from the LEF Foundation and the Lannan Foundation. The traveling exhibition is made possible through a grant to the Museum for African Art from the Nathan Cummings Foundation. The Department of Social Sciences and History and the College at Florham Library organized the exhibition at FDU’s College at Florham. Support for additional programming has been provided by Office of the Dean, Becton College; the Office of the Provost, College at Florham; and by the University’s Office of Global Learning.

For further information please contact 973 443 8515.

Library hours are Mon.-Thu. 8:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri., 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. 2-5 p.m.

View sample images from the exhibit.

College at Florham

Gretchen Johnson

Office of Public Relations
Fairleigh Dickinson University
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