Maurice Mbikayi

Maurice Mbikayi was born in 1974 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and currently lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • The numbers of the works of art correspond to the numbers on the exhibition route in the visitor's guide.
  • You can also find these works of art in the virtual tour.

Maurice Mbikayi holds a BA in graphic design from the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa. He completed his Master of Fine Arts degree at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. Mbikayi has had a number of solo exhibitions, which most recently include: Coucou Crumble at Gallery MOMO, (2019, Cape Town) and Masks Of Heterotopia at Officine dell’Immagine (2018, Milan). He has also been part of a number group shows including: Still Here Tomorrow To High Five You Yesterday… at Zeitz Mocca (2019, Cape Town); Congo Stars at Kunsthaus Graz (2018, Graz, Austria); ON/OFF at Casa Victor Hugo (2018, Havana); Biennale de Lubumbashi (2017, Lubumbashi). Mbikayi’s practice focuses on contemporary technology and the dumping of its waste in Africa and in the Congo in particular. Mbikayi collects these remnants and appropriates them in his work, resulting in sculptures, photographs, and performances that link the materials back to their political contexts, namely, low-wage labor abuse, as well as to the ecological and health hazards of e-waste on the African continent. Equally important, this appropriation also allows for highlighting, in the artist’s words, “the resilience of African people, who have found a myriad of ways to make use of limited resources.”

 

The Aesthetic Observer (2021)

Number 2 on the exhibition route
Location: art park

In this figure’s clothing we recognize keys recuperated from old computer keyboards, a reference to the raw materials needed in today’s technology: it is still exploited workers who extract the ores from the ground in Congo, thus enabling the Western way of life. And afterwards, the West often dumps the materials back in Africa as toxic waste. Mbikayi collects the remains and uses them in his art. In this way, he not only denounces this skewed situation but also pays tribute to the resilience of the African people, who have found endless ways to make the most of limited resources. The ‘aesthetic observer’ is a flâneur and a dandy, an imagined cousin to the famous Congolese sapeurs. The dandy pays close attention to his appearance, as a sign of resistance and independence.

Maurice Mbikayi,  The Aesthetic Observer (2021) © The Artist/De kunstenaar, Photo: Léonard Pongo

Maurice Mbikayi, The Aesthetic Observer (2021) © The Artist/De kunstenaar, Photo: Léonard Pongo

 

Princesse Mathilde La Kinoise (2018) / Mademoiselle Amputée (2019)

Number 19 on the exhibition route
Location: Gloriette

These two female figures embody the relationship between the enrichment of the Belgian high bourgeoisie and noble families with the exploitation of the Congo. They too are dressed in twenty-first century recycled electronic waste, just like The Aesthetic Observer. But their costumes refer to the end of the nineteenth century, when Leopold II ruled the Congo. Thus an arc is made between exploitation then and now, from the children with severed hands on rubber plantations during the reign of Leopold II to the children digging up coltan for electronic devices today. The current Belgian queen Mathilde is portrayed as a lady from Kinshasa: because the Congo has brought wealth to the royal family, every royal descendant is a Kinois(e). Conversely, the Congolese lady deserves royal credit for prevailing over the difficult circumstances.

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