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The Technicolor Congo Pop Art Of Jonathan Mwe di Malila

Kinshasa-born artist Jonathan Mwe di Malila's CONGO POP is a technicolor mixed-media style that takes elements of Pop Art and Fauvism.

All images courtesy of Jonathan Mwe di Malila


Jonathan Mwe di Malila is a twenty-one-year-old oil and acrylic painter who says his latest work serves to uplift his heritage and bring Congolese culture to the mainstream. The Kinshasa-born artist moved to Cologne, Germany, at a young age. Faced with the unfamiliarity of his new surroundings, he turned to art as a means of connecting with those around him. "I remembered very well that communication was really difficult to me because I couldn't speak a single word in German," he told us over e-mail. "So to let people know what I wanted to communicate I started drawing little pictures and paintings. By the time I learned German, my passion for art hadn't slackened for a single moment."

Malila's vibrant paintings take elements of Pop Art's vivid collaging and Fauvism's bold brushstrokes and color palettes to create a technicolor mixed-media style he's dubbed CONGO POP. "Congo Pop is the lovechild between Pop-Art and Fauvism," he explained. "In my paintings I depict everyday Congolese culture in a colorful and expressive tone and I use my African background, combined with everyday objects, subjects and situations to bring funny content and culture to people. Sometimes, some of my work appears to be naive. These works partially depict childish and elementary visions and act as spontaneous expressions of myself."

It is this uninhibited freedom of expression that inspired Malila to focus his recent series Les Gens de coleur de Kinsasha on the dapper Gentlemen of Bacongo, a fraternity of well-dressed men whose self-determining ideology manifests itself through their expertly tailored outfits and air of genteel individuality. Les Sapeurs, as they are called in Congo, use their impeccable fashion sense and elegant affectations to transform themselves into walking works of art. Despite their often humble beginnings, Sapeurs adopt lavish personas in order to resist being confined to their socioeconomic standing, and their outward appearance tells the world that they too can possess the swagger and status of well-heeled members of the upper class. "The urge for freedom and the desire for individuality are the subjects of these paintings," he told us of the series. "In particular, the self-presentation [of Sapeurs] considering the external circumstances impressed me."

Another new series focuses solely on female figures, and features oil portraits of four different women. Malila shared that he started working on this collection, titled Black Beauty, to show the beauty of the African woman. In both Black Beauty and Les Gens de coleur de Kinshasa, Malila uses a solid color palette made up of bright and flashy hues, with simplified forms that integrate patterned African fabrics.

Click through the gallery above for more of Jonathan Mwe di Malila's CONGO POP, and keep up with him on Facebook and Tumblr.

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Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.



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