Untitled (Fishing) by Ndima Kapesa
The paintings of Nsimba Kapesa portray idealized images from African village life. Because little is known about the artist, the paintings raise more questions than they answer. What is known, is that they were made for sale with an eye on the tourist market. The paintings were purchased in 1991 at an open-air art, craft, and produce market in Durban, South Africa from a Kinshasan tradesman who told the buyer that the artist was "an old man who used to be a member of the royal household and that he paints to make money for food." Although Kapesa was living in Kinshasa when he made the paintings, his familial origins are unknown and there is no verification of the dealer's claim that he was a member of a royal household.

Traditionally, an artist's position was hereditary but we do not know Kapesa's lineage. We do not know where he received art training or if he was self-taught. The imagery used in traditional African art often contains several layers of meaning and is symbolic in nature. For example, in the Kongo culture, dogs in their capacity as hunters are thought to inhabit the world of the living as well as the dead. Does the image of the hunting dog in Kapesa's painting carry a double meaning? The image of a mother and child is found in traditional art work throughout Africa. It too, carries multiple levels of meaning depending on the context in which it is used. Are Kapesa's images intended to be taken at face value as literal representations of village life or do they contain messages that are rooted in the myths and traditions of his culture? It would be necessary to know the artist's origins and his intentions to answer those questions. (GP)

Nsimba Kapesa Paintings on Flour Sacks, (1985-1990) Oil enamel on Cloth Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Click Here for additonal images
Please use arrow buttons to move to the next/previous image in the Exhibition
Return to African Art & Culture Page Click Here
Return to African Art & Culture Page; Click Here