This selection of works is the contribution of a group of young cultural producers based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who since 2019 learn, create, imagine and work together, within the program of Atelier Picha in Lubumbashi. Since its second edition in 2019, Atelier Picha became under my direction a permanent program within the activities of Picha, with the idea of expanding an educational tool into a collective space of artistic production, where visual artists, photographers and film makers, writers and dancers, theater programmers and musicians grow together as cultural producers and develop new cultural ideas for their contexts, cooperating with the guest international artists and activists who are invited to Lubumbashi for research, education and site-specific production.
Atelier Picha follows the vision of Picha, an independent and artist-lead initiative which since 2008 promotes artistic research and production, taking urban spaces as a stage and images as media. Picha was developed thorough the years with the set up of Lubumbashi Biennale and the Art Center Picha: its projects focus on developing an artistic perspective to the gaze observing the city of Lubumbashi, its history and its present complexities, with critical lenses informed with a strongly local and at the same time globally conscious approach.
Lubumbashi grown over the Katanga mineral wealth: copper (the main reason for the initial Belgian settlement in 1870’s); Uranium (the same used for the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic bombs); Lithium (the main source for the production of batteries for any electronic tool). Shaped while taking over the original Congolese settlement, since the end of 19th century the city is a modern capital, an economic hub of many national and international mining companies, a gateway of migrations and the embodiment of colonial history and colonial present. Belgian settlers designed it to be a segregated city, with the white area rigorously restricted and separated from the area inhabited by the “indigenous”. At the same time is an important post-colonial cultural hub: its University hosted the philosopher Valentin-Yves Mudimbe in the 70s, and over the last few decades many artists, writers, inventors, creative entrepreneurs, and visionaries have moved to the city in search of fortune or in order to make their visions true.
From this history and in this context, Atelier Picha supports the vision of a new generation of artists, aiming at let them finding a voice for their stories and their gaze, in a postcolonial world where many histories are yet to be visibilized. Little stories which every one of the artists decided to narrate attempting languages which they have experimented for the first time whicle working together. Their value is therefore in the way they’ve decided to look at their context and find their strenght from within.
As many collective projects, it is a space happening thanks to the involvement of many people.
Atelier Picha: From Lubumbashi: Lambick Meli, Mustache Muhanya, Patient Mputu, Pecho Kabwe, Kevin Kabambi, Joseph Kasau, Ariel Kasongo, Jackson Bukasa, Judith Kalanga (Lubumbashi); Arsène Mpiana, Godelive Kasangati , Gloire Ndoko; Franck Moka; Nelson Makengo; Isaac Sahani. Guest artists: Ruangrupa (Indonesia); Mega Minguedi (Kinshasa, Congo RDC); Douglas Masamuna (Lubumbashi, Congo RDC); Patrick Selemani (Johannesburg, South Africa); Gosette Lubondo (Kinshasa, Congo RDC); Nelson Makengo (Kinshasa, Congo RDC); Georges Senga (Lubumbashi, Congo RDC/Rotterdam The Nethelrands); Rosa Spaliviero (Senegal/Belgium); Petna Ndaliko Katondolo / Yole Africa (Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo); Anna Raimondo (Italy/Belgium); Archive Berlin/Dakar (Chiara Figone) with Untitled Duo Marrakesh (Cameroon/Morrocco); Moussa Kalapo (Mali); Marco Longari (Italy). Partners: Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa; Triangle Art Trust, London, UK; Yole Africa, Goma, Congo Rdc. Supporters: Doen Foundation, The Netherlands; Wallonie-Bruxelles International; Institut Français; Gasworks, London, UK; EUNIC – European Representation in Congo; Casa degli Italiani, Lubumbashi, RDC.
Picha: Jean Katambayi Mukendi, Aimé Kalenda, Sammy Baloji, Georges Senga, Alexandre Mulongo Finkelstein, Rosa Spaliviero, Gabriele Salmi, Filip De Boek. Céline De Lissadieres, coordinator.