Kiripi Katembo (1979-2015) was born in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, and has devoted his life to documenting and interpreting the complex reality of the capital through powerful images and committed cinematographic works. His work, deeply rooted in the social reality of his city, reveals the challenges facing the people of Kinshasa. Using art as a means of raising awareness and mobilising people, Kiripi Katembo denounces the inactivity of political leaders in the face of insalubrity and pollution.
As a student at the Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa, Kiripi Katembo began painting and making videos to capture his urban environment. Un regard, his first photographic series, came about almost by accident. Faced with the hostility of the inhabitants towards the lens, Kiripi Katembo used the reflections of puddles. “The locals are uncomfortable when they have a camera in front of them (…). (…) As I fled from their gaze, I came across the reflections of the water, which opened up a fairly surreal window with lots of details that correspond very well to the reality of my city.
Through the reflections in stagnant puddles, he seeks to illustrate a reality other than the all-too-documented one of omnipresent disorganisation and chaos. “That’s what photography means to me: sitting down, looking at it and wondering whether I’m making a painting with it. What interests the photographer is the conscious or unconscious urban installation of the population. The result is landscapes inhabited by shadows and objects, inviting us to imagine stories of this sublimated everyday life. The titles of his photographs evoke the real and violent concerns of the people of Kinshasa. The raw poetry of “Errer”, “Subir” and “Tenir” sound like injunctions to the people of Kinshasa from an artist who had dedicated his youth and ideals to promoting his country’s culture.
Kiripi Katembo was also a film-maker, his documentary films bearing witness to the social and political conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With a committed narrative approach, he used cinema to give a voice to the people and to provoke reflection on the environmental issues facing them.
Kiripi Katembo, who died prematurely of malaria in 2015, is recognised as one of the most influential Congolese artists of his generation. A federator and fervent defender of the Congolese art scene, he founded the Yango Biennial in 2014. This cultural initiative aims to offer visibility to Congolese artists and became a genuine platform for exchange and dialogue for local and international creators. The Yango Biennial plays a key role in promoting contemporary art and recognising emerging talent in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kiripi Katembo has left behind a powerful body of work and a sublimated vision of Kinshasa through a unique photographic aesthetic. This exhibition, conceived in partnership with the Kiripi Katembo Siku Foundation, presents for the first time some twenty prints and a video from Un regard, an emblematic series produced between 2008 and 2013.
If London is closer to you than Paris, the series is also on show as part of the exhibition A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography at the Tate Modern, London SE1, which opened on July 6th and runs until January 14th – so there’s still plenty of time for the London exhibit.
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Kiripi Katembo – Un regard – until 29 July 2023
118 Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, 75011 Paris
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Free admission – Tuesday to Saturday, 2pm to 7pm.
You can also discover the work of Kiripi Katembo
A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography
6 July – 14 January 2024
Tate Modern, Bankside
London SE1 9TG
Monday to Sunday 10pm-6pm