The Congo on Can­vas

Con­golese artist Ley Mb­o­ramwe takes in­spi­ra­tion from his home coun­try and its his­tory, as well as cur­rent events. He hopes that his vi­brant can­vases mo­ti­vate peo­ple to be con­scious of their lives.

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Kayla Cloete Im­ages © Eclec­tica Con­tem­po­rary

Ley Mb­o­ramwe, who hails from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, has a deep con­nec­tion to the trou­bles which plague his coun­try. It is a mo­tif which calls out to you from the beau­ti­fully ab­stract forms on his can­vases, which can be viewed at Eclec­tica Con­tem­po­rary Art Gallery in Burg Street, Cape Town.

Eclec­tica Con­tem­po­rary Art Gallery is a pur­veyor of iconic in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal de­sign, ex­hibit­ing the finest in con­tem­po­rary South African Art. An es­tab­lished and renowned force in the art world, many art col­lec­tors and en­thu­si­asts trust Eclec­tica when it comes to sourc­ing dis­tinc­tive works of art. And that is ex­actly what Mb­o­ramwe’s art­work is.

“The im­ages I pro­duce par­tially re­late to what hap­pened in my coun­try with re­gards to the war – the killings, and the loot­ing of pre­cious min­er­als from Congo. Where I come from, it is hot. There­fore, through the use of warm colours, you can see that I have not for­got­ten my homeland. At the same time, I en­deav­our to make work that is more of a univer­sal com­men­tary, bal­anc­ing it with the in­flu­ence of my ori­gin,” Mb­o­ramwe ex­plains.

The artist is all too aware of the univer­sal is­sue of hu­man suf­fer­ing. While in the process of writ­ing his the­sis for his Diploma in Fine Art from the Academie des Beauxarts, both of his par­ents passed away. “How­ever, and for­tu­nately, we were a mid­dle-class fam­ily, and my sib­lings and I were all well-ed­u­cated and able to grad­u­ate. I re­ceived my diploma with dis­tinc­tion, de­spite the tragedy.”

Af­ter com­plet­ing his diploma, Mb­o­ramwe moved to Cape Town in 2006 where he took a stone en­grav­ing class un­der the tute­lage of the tal­ented Maude Beck­ett. A cal­lig­ra­phy course at the Tyger­berg Arts Cen­tre com­pleted Mb­o­ramwe’s list of for­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tions. How­ever, though with­out any form of qual­i­fi­ca­tion on the topic, Mb­o­ramwe’s work is also strongly in­flu­enced by his in­ter­est in rock paint­ings.

“Af­ter ar­riv­ing in Cape Town, my in­ter­est in rock art was sparked. There is a place in Ta­ble Moun­tain, a cave where we go at night to pray. When I saw it, I be­came in­spired be­cause of the fact that it has been there for a very long time. My in­ter­est per­haps mir­rors the same fas­ci­na­tion as those who col­lect an­tiques,” he ex­plains.

For Mb­o­ramwe, th­ese paint­ings rep­re­sent a time when man was true and whole. This same feel­ing of whole­ness is what he hopes to achieve through his art. “For some­one who sees my work, I would like to in­spire them to be con­scious of the life they live and be grate­ful for how God has made them.”

Mb­o­ramwe achieves this con­scious­ness through the ab­stract hu­man forms in his paint­ings. By play­ing with how we see the hu­man form, we are forced to ques­tion which parts are the ones that make us whole. Mb­o­ramwe ex­plains that the fig­ures in his paint­ings are not nec­es­sar­ily peo­ple that he has met be­fore, but rather ob­jec­tive ves­sels for con­vey­ing a deeper mes­sage.

“I do not know the sub­jects I por­tray in my paint­ings on a per­sonal level. For in­stance, one of my paint­ings ti­tled Red Bul­let is a por­trait

of the cur­rent pres­i­dent of Congo, Joseph Ka­bila, but I did not want him to be in­stantly recog­nis­able. He rep­re­sents the re­luc­tance to give up power, which is why the war in Congo is not over, and why there are still peo­ple be­ing killed. The marks on his face rep­re­sent the force at which he took power and the re­cur­ring ef­fect it will have on him.”

Mb­o­ramwe uses cur­rent events as stim­uli, as it cre­ates a sense of emo­tional drive and con­nec­tion both per­son­ally and con­cep­tu­ally for him.

As for his process, he ex­plains: “If there is a can­vas in front of me, I just start work­ing. I usu­ally start with the back­ground and then pro­ceed to sketch. I pre­fer for the process to hap­pen nat­u­rally and in­tu­itively. I do not like work­ing to­wards a set idea, as that lim­its me.”

The tal­ented artist then mainly uses the pointil­list tech­nique (a process of us­ing small dots in pat­terns to cre­ate an im­age) and paints with wa­ter colours and acrylics as his pre­ferred medi­ums, avoid­ing oil paints as he feels they are too toxic. What re­sults from his ef­forts is a beau­ti­ful ex­pres­sion of colour and feel­ing.

“As God has blessed me, so I need to give back, and I have started to do so since 2008 by teach­ing art and stone en­grav­ing to the South African youth at the Cas­tle of Good Hope. Through this and my cre­ative works, I would like young dreamers to know that al­though art is hard work, some­one has to do it. There­fore, you should not give up, no mat­ter what.”

View­ing the vi­brant im­ages of ex­pres­sive forms, there is no doubt that Mb­o­ramwe has been blessed with an in­cred­i­ble amount of tal­ent, which has made the art world take no­tice.

For more info, visit Eclec­tica Con­tem­po­rary Art Gallery’s web­site ww.eclec­ti­cades­ig­nan­dart.co.za, email ad­min@eclec­ti­cades­ig­nan­dart.co.za, or call +27 21 422 0327. Eclec­tica Con­tem­po­rary Art Gallery is at 179 Buiten­gracht Street, Gar­dens, Cape Town.

Un­ti­tled, acrylic on can­vas, 100 x 100 cm, 2017.

North is Bal­anc­ing, acrylic on can­vas, 120 x 120 cm, 2017.

Kivu un­der ground, acrylic on can­vas, 120 x 120 cm, 2017.

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