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Congo’s Artists Struggle for Recognition


15 April, 2018

The arts world in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is very active. But talented local artists still struggle for international recognition.

One of those artists is 26-year-old Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga. Kamuanga says Congo's cultural and mineral wealth has influenced his artistry. He says another influence is his country's painful colonial history.

His paintings have been shown in South Africa, Europe and the United States. One of his pieces can sell for as much as $30,000 at an international auction. That makes him one of Congo's highest paid artists.

But art industry experts say his work only gets average prices when compared to artists worldwide.

Kamuanga says African artists are thought of differently in the arts world. He adds, "I think it is a struggle for many artists in Africa to get the same recognition."

Another artist, Freddy Tsimba, says one problem is the lack of support in DRC. Tsimba creates sculptures. His works are shown internationally, but get little attention in his home country.

Congolese artist Vitshois Mwilambwe Bondo has shown his art work and lived around the world. But he returned home to Congo to work at a recently established studio for young Congolese artists.

"I say, OK, it is good for me to stay here, why? Because we need to build [the] art scene and to make something, since the people can buy artwork in Congo. And now, people are starting to buy, (but it) is a big process, it is a big challenge."

Currently, the studio has two women artists. One of them is Dina Ekanga.

She says it is not easy being both a woman and an artist because the men push you around from all sides. She adds that the art scene is rather difficult, especially in Congo.

Younger artists, like painter Romario Lukau, also say they struggle to establish themselves. Lukau is one of four young painters who are trying to find success as artists. They sell their paintings for about $1,000 each.

Lukau says his biggest dream is for people to talk about Congolese art the way we talk about American, German or Belgian art. He and other Congolese artists say they are hopeful that dream will come true one day soon.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Anita Powell reported this story for VOANews. Jonathan Evans adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

studio – n. a place where people go to learn, train, or study art

talented – adj. having a special ability to do something well

challenge – n. a problem; a competition

scenen. the place of an action or event

auction – n. a sale of an object to the person or group willing to pay the most money

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