Kiripi Katembo: Un regard

Until July 29th, 2023, the MAGNIN-A Gallery will unveil the captivating world of Congolese photographer and filmmaker Kiripi Katembo (1979-2015). Tragically passing away at the age of 36, Kiripi Katembo left behind a profound body of work, and a sublime vision of Kinshasa captured through a distinctive photographic style. This exhibition, in collaboration with the Kiripi Katembo Siku Foundation, will present around twenty prints and a video from “Un regard” (A Look), an iconic series created between 2008 and 2013, which will also be featured soon at the Tate Modern.
Additionally, the MAGNIN-A gallery will showcase the short film “Voiture en carton” (Cardboard Car), a ground-level journey through a popular neighborhood in Kinshasa, previously presented at the Centre Pompidou during the 4th edition of the Pocket Films Festival in 2008.

Born in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kiripi Katembo dedicated himself to documenting and interpreting the intricate reality of the capital through powerful images and socially conscious cinematic works. His art, deeply rooted in the social fabric of his city, sheds light on the challenges faced by the inhabitants of Kinshasa. Using his art as a tool for awareness and mobilization, Kiripi Katembo exposed the inaction of politicians regarding unsanitary conditions and pollution. As a student at the Kinshasa Academy of Fine Arts, Kiripi Katembo initially explored painting and video to capture the essence of his urban environment. Serendipitously, “Un regard,” his debut photographic series, came into being. Confronted by the residents’ discomfort when faced with a camera, Kiripi Katembo turned to capturing reflections in puddles of water. “The inhabitants are not at ease when they have a camera in front of them. (…) By avoiding their gaze, I stumbled upon water reflections that opened a somewhat surreal window with many details that correspond very well to the reality of my city.” Through these reflections in stagnant puddles, he sought to portray an alternate reality, one distinct from the extensively documented narrative of disorder and constant chaos. “For me, photography consists of this: sitting, watching, and asking myself if with this photograph, I’m making a painting.” The photographer’s focus lies in capturing the conscious or unconscious urban expressions of the population, resulting in landscapes inhabited by shadows and objects that invite us to imagine stories of an elevated everyday existence. The titles of his photographs evoke the harsh and real concerns faced by the people of Kinshasa. With raw poetry, “Errer” (Wander), “Subir” (Endure/Suffer), “Tenir” (Hold), resonate as powerful calls to the people of Kinshasa from an artist who had dedicated his youth and ideals to promoting his country’s culture.
Beyond photography, Kiripi Katembo was also a filmmaker, using his documentaries to bear witness to the social and political conditions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Employing a committed narrative approach, he gave a voice to the people and prompted contemplation on the environmental challenges they confronted. Kiripi Katembo’s untimely demise in 2015 due to malaria brought an end to the life of one of the most influential Congolese artists of his generation. A unifying and fervent supporter of the Congolese art scene, he established the Biennale Yango in 2014. This cultural initiative aimed to provide visibility to Congolese artists, evolving into a genuine platform for exchange and dialogue between local and international creators. The Biennale Yango played a crucial role in promoting contemporary art and recognizing emerging talents from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A portrait of Kiripi Katembo by Thomas Salva

About the Author

Born in 1979, Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Died in 2015 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he lived and worked.
Kiripi Katembo was first a painter and video artist before using photography – “these still images” – to express his relationship with his urban environment, his city, Kinshasa. “Un regard” is his first photographic series: it happened by accident. Confronted with the hostility of the inhabitants towards the camera, Katembo then used the reflections of the puddles of water that stagnated on the streets of the city to make his photos of the urban landscape: “and there everything is put in situation, people, architecture, landscapes … The reflections of water allowed to circumvent this problem while giving a surrealist vision but full of details that correspond very well to the reality of my city.” Presenting the images in reverse allows him to magnify the everyday reality to go beyond. “If you take the image in the normal sense, it’s chaos. As soon as you turn it around, everything becomes more positive, more beautiful.” Produced between 2008 and 2013, the series Un regard was presented in Congo in Kinshasa and at the Biennale of Lubumbashi. In 2011 he received the Blachère Foundation Prize at the Bamako Photography Meetings before being exhibited at the Venice Biennale and the Berlinale. The image Survivre illustrated the poster of the Avignon Festival in 2013.


Kiripi Katembo: Un regard
June 3 – July 29, 2023
MAGNIN-A Gallery – Paris – France


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