“It was night-time, and I could see clients walking up to prostitutes and using the light of their mobile phones to assess them, as though they were mere objects. Interestingly, these young girls were mainly from the Pende tribe – the same tribe that produced the sculptures that inspired Picasso to create Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a picture depicting prostitutes. This is therefore a juxtaposition of the image produced by Picasso and of these Pende women reduced to mere objects. This cultural and political dimension fascinates me.”
Aimé Mpane (b. 1968, D.R. Congo) is one of the most prominent Congolese artists of his generation. As a sculptor he has developed a very personal style in which sculpted volumes and painted surfaces constantly interact. Working primarily with wood and an adze - a traditional African woodworking tool – the Belgium-based artist creates sculptures, mosaic-like wall hangings, and portraits carved on wood that explore his personal and artistic experiences in Congo and Belgium’s post-colonial worlds. His practice is inspired by contemporary Congo, while demonstrating a deep understanding of its history.
Mpane’s sculptures and installations often address the aftermath of Belgian colonialism; while his rough-hewn, brightly painted portraits on wood panels of the people he meets on the streets of Kinshasa give insight into modern Congolese identity. UNSETTLED presents two works from his series “Le Demoiselle Pende/Masque Bi-face”. These carved sculptures resemble African sickness masks while also referencing Pablo Picasso’s 1907 masterpiece “Les Demoisselles d’Avignon”. This body of work was inspired by a visit of the artist to his grandmother in a village situated some 800 kilometers from Kinshasa. As a lot of diamonds are mined around Tshikapa City, in the Kasai Province, the area is rife with trafficking; a context that fosters the spread of prostitution.