The art of survival at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa

September 2008 -

Student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) must fulfil three tasks: they must study, produce works of art and find a client base for these works. The 300 students at the Academy have resolved to sell their art in order to cover their tuition fees and costs of living on campus. They are all well aware that to produce quality pieces of art they must study theory for part of the day before going to their workshops.

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video (c) Africa Interactive

The art the students produce ranges from painting, sculpture, ceramics, beaten metalwork and interior and exterior decoration. Following the example of Georges Herardy, a 3rd year student, the students no longer seem to expect anything from the government, but rather take responsibility for themselves. "Selling my art enables me to get by and ensure my academic education", says Herardy, adding, "the government seems to have forgotten us."

With a vast number of visual artists and artisans the DRC is very rich in cultural diversity. Unfortunately, however, such artists lack state-sponsored training or training from other well-run organisations. "After my studies I would like to have my own workshop and to become famous", says Herardy.

Although a number of subjects are explored by these talented artists, the central role played by women and African traditions is particularly evident. Within the Academy the works decorating the hallways are so expressive and full of inspiration that they never fail to brighten up the eye of the admirer. Other works reflect on slavery and the slave trade but also topical subjects such as the defence of human rights and democracy.

This article was realised in cooperation with press agency Africa Interactive.