The Congolese artist Botalatala is the self-proclaimed Minister of Rubbish, who works with salvaged materials from the streets of Kinshasa to create his bricolage paintings. He thinks of himself as a teacher creating art that will inspire people to reflect, research, and learn.
‘I could paint like other artists, but I choose not to.’
Botalatala uses reclaimed wood, wire, carton, and other items others discard as rubbish to create miniature models for his paintings. The themes of his work encompass everything from the everyday microcosm of Congolese life from music to food, to the macrocosm of international geopolitics such as the exploitative relationship between Africa and the rest of the world, power and privilege within DRCongo, brain drain, and African debt. Within his work, Africa often appears as a character with mouth, eyes and arms, who shares her destiny with that of her citizens.
Botalatala was born in Kisangani (Stanleyville at the time) and suffered from Polio. As a child he was ostracised for his disability, but worked hard at school to prove his ‘worth’ as a child to his parents, finishing top of his class each year. He went on to study at the National University of Zaire and, after a period working in a bank, began his career as an artist in 1979. He has also worked in Kisangani with demobilised child soldiers, helping their rehabilitation by using art and other forms of self-expression.
Botalatala was introduced to Joe Wright on his trip to DRC with Oxfam in March. Following a commission to create a piece for the production, he has been working out of the Young Vic this month to create unique paintings inspired by the themes of Césaire’s play and Oxfam’s campaigning and humanitarian work. On his return to Kinshasa, he hopes to mount an exhibition visually illustrating each episode of the play.
For enquiries please contact:
Esme Peach, London: 07973 273 708
Benoit Van Maele, Kinshasa: +243 970 020 511