Arts + Culture

The Metropolitan Museum Of Art Is Showcasing 500 Years Of Kongolese Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's new exhibition showcases 500 years of art from the Kingdom of Kongo.


(1) All images courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum Of Art (See below for image IDs)

Kongo: Power and Majesty is a new exhibition showcasing art objects and writings from the 15th century through the 20th century of what is now the Republic of the Congo, the DRC and Angola. Opening September 18 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the presentation will explore how elegant woodworkings, delicately woven textiles, as well as religious and political writings reflect a history of encounters between Central African and European leaders.

Curated by Alisa LaGamma, the exhibition was inspired by the recently-acquired, rare Mangaaka sculpture (shown above), a figure that once stood as a guardian for the Kongo community. "This exhibition of Kongo art, spanning half a millenia, culminates with the historic opportunity to view fifteen Mangaaka figures gathered from institutions in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States,” says the Met's director, Thomas Campbell, in his foreword to the exhibition's catalogue. 

Altogether, the show will feature 146 works of Kongo artists drawn from more than 50 institutional and private collections across Europe and the United Sates. A preview of the show's catalogue, distributed by Yale University press, details the significance of some of the exhibition pieces: “Objects range from 15th-century 'mother-and-child' figures, which reflect a time when Europeans and their Christian motifs were viewed favorably, to fearsome Mangaaka, power figures that conveyed strength in the midst of the kingdom’s dissolution.”

Though most individual artists remain unidentified, the work of a few masters of Central Africa will be presented for the first time in this exhibition, including the Master of Kasadi, the Master of Makaya Vista, and the Master of Boma Vonde.

The Met will also be holding as series events in conjunction with the exhibition, including a panel in October featuring Congolese dancer-choreographer Faustin Linyekula as well as a conversation between photographic artist Jo Ractcliff, who has captured images of Angola, and author David Van Reybrouch, who has written extensively about the history of Congo. Ractcliff and Reybrouch will discuss emotional memory in art and the dominant structures of history within Central Africa.

Check out a preview of the works that will be on display below. Kongo: Power and Majesty is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from September 18, 2015, to January 3, 2016.

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  1. Fig. 169 Power Figure (Nkisi N’Kondi: Mangaaka). Kongo peoples, Yombe group, Chiloango River region, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Cabinda, Angola, 19th century, inventoried 1906. Wood, iron, resin, cowrie shell, animal hide and hair (monkey?), ceramic, plant fiber, textile, pigment. H. 441⁄8 in. (112 cm), W. 187⁄8 in. (48 cm), D. 141⁄8 in. (36 cm). MIBACT—Polo Museale del Lazio, Museo Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini, Rome (75909). Photo: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  2. Fig. 116 Power Figure: Standing Female with Child (Wife of Mabyaala?) (Nkisi). Kongo peoples; Vili group, Loango coast, Cabinda, Angola, 19th century, inventoried 1885. Wood, beads, glass, fiber, copper, resin, pigment. H. 151⁄4 in. (38.5 cm), W. 53⁄4 in. (14.6 cm), D. 51⁄2 in. (14 cm). Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, Netherlands. Photo: © National Museum of World Cultures, Leiden
  3. Fig. 135 Master of the Boma-Vonde Region, Power Figure: Seated Female Nursing Child (Nkisi). Kongo peoples; Yombe group, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Cabinda, Angola, 19th–early 20th century. Wood, metal, kaolin, glass. H. 111⁄8 in. (28.3 cm), W. 41⁄4 in. (10.8 cm), D. 41⁄4 in. (10.8 cm). Steven Kossak, The Kronos Collections, New York. Photo: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  4. Fig. 172 Power Figure (Nkisi N’Kondi: Mangaaka). Kongo peoples; Yombe group, Chiloango River region, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Cabinda, Angola, 19th century, inventoried 1906. Wood, iron, resin, cowrie shell, animal hide and hair (tail of colobus monkey?), ceramic, plant fiber, pigment. H. 413⁄4 in. (106 cm), W. 173⁄4 in. (45 cm), D. 173⁄8 in. (44 cm). Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam. Photo: © Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam, photograph by Studio R. Asselberghs / Frederic. Dehaen, Brussels
  5. Fig. 7 Figure of Christ. Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Angola, 18th–19th century. Brass (open-back cast), H 43⁄8 in. (11.1 cm), W. 41⁄2 in. (11.4 cm), D. 7⁄8 in. (2.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Gift of Ernst Anspach, 1999. Photo: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  6. Fig. 128 Master of Kasadi Workshop, Mask (Nganga Diphomba). Kongo peoples; Yombe group, Kasadi village, near Tshela, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th–early 20th century, inventoried 1937, Wood (Ricinodendron heudelotii Baill.), pigments, hide, metal tacks. H. 113⁄8 in. (29 cm), W. 67⁄8 in. (17.5 cm), D. 51⁄2 in. (14 cm). Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium. Photo: © RMCA, Tervuren, photographs by R. Asselberghs
  7. Fig. 84 Prestige Cap (Mpu). Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Angola, 16th–17th century, inventoried 1674. Raffia or pineapple fiber. H. 71⁄8 in. (18 cm), Diam. 57⁄8 in. (15 cm). Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen. Photo: © The National Museum of Denmark, Ethnographic Collections
  8. Fig. 66 Garment (Nkutu) Kongo peoples; Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Angola, 19th century, inventoried 1853 Raffia. H. 311⁄8 in. (79 cm), W. 491⁄4 in. (125 cm) British Museum, London. Photo: © The Trustees of the British Museum
  9. Power Figure (Nkisi N’Kondi: Mangaaka). Kongo peoples; Yombe group, Chiloango River region, Cabinda, Angola, 19th century, inventoried 1898. Wood, iron, resin, ceramic, plant fiber, textile, cowrie shell, animal hide and hair, pigment, H. 461⁄2 in. (118 cm), W. 181⁄8 in. (46 cm), D. 133⁄4 in. (35 cm). Manchester Museum, University of Manchester (0.9321/1)
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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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