Treasure of the month
'La vendeuse de pagne'
Artist: Cheri Cherin (°1955)
Title: La vendeuse de pagne
Place: Kinshasa, DRC, 2002.
Dimensions: 105 x 133 cm.
Technique: Oil on canvas
Inventory number: HO.2013.57.1724
To those who are not familiar with the genre, Congolese popular painting can seem deceptive Congolese mod-ern music: while many westerners are struck by the colours and humour of Congolese popular painting, the messages conveyed tend to be quite serious. This combination of gravity and lightness makes works of art that can be understood at different levels of understanding and whose messages allow for reflection and debates.
“La vendeuse de pagne » can serve as a typical example. It shows women being busy selling industrial wax on the market while the men whom they employ spend their time asleep, dreaming of sex or gambling on horse races. It is funny. But it also conveys a bitter reality: in a context in which men are unemployed, do not earn enough money or are not paid on time, many urban families survive thanks to women’s female activities. The message of this painting, as of many other Congolese popular paintings is moralistic. But humour helps to soften the blow.
A striking and unusual feature of this particular painting is the use of real wax cloth for the clothes of the woman in the centre of the picture. Many Congolese popular painters cannot afford to buy a canvas and have to make do with recycled material. What for many other paintings an invisible support behind the scene is, in “La vendeuse de pagne” becomes an integral part of the scene represented.
Joseph Kinkonda (°16 februari 1955) was born and lives and works in Kinshasa. Cheri is an acronym for Créateur Hors (série) Expressioniste Remarquable Inégalable. Unlike most Congolese popular painters, Cheri Cherin was formed at the Fine Arts Academy in Kinshasa, where he studied ceramics. He worked as a painter of poster and publicity murals before starting to painting on canvas.
‘La vendeuse de pagne’ is presented until 22 January 2017 at BOZAR in the Pop-up exhibition of the RMCA ‘Congo Art Works. Popular painting’.