Today, waste management – especially plastic – on a global scale is more worrying than ever. The Democratic Republic of Congo stands among countries most affected by the lack of accountability of manufacturers relocating and outsourcing huge landfills on its soil. Ranked as the 8th poorest population in the world despite their country’s immense mineral wealth, the Congolese people are overrun by garbage left by goods produced with their own resources and labor but yet designed for others.
A folk-art movement was born from the junkyards of Kinshasa. Dressed in masks and costumes made from rubbish, a generation of street children and artists from Kinshasa’s Academy of Fine Arts have come together to create “Ndaku ya la vie est belle”. Founded in 2015 by visual artist Eddy Ekete, this art collective brings together 25 creators who draw their inspiration from ancestral clothing arts to stand against the ecological disaster their country suffers.
To amplify their struggle and celebrate their craft, Stéphan Gladieu creates a series of totemic portraits merging documentary photography with artistic practice. In a live studio set up on the streets of Kinshasa, he highlights the militant artists’ surrealist silhouettes and vibrant creations.
Rediscovering the meaning of the traditional masks of this part of Africa, its members wear used mobile phones, bags of laundry detergent, plastic caps, electrical cables, medicine packs or oil cans.
Introduced by novelist Wilfried N’sondé, these portraits tell a story of creative talent passed on despite the attacks of consumerism.
About the Author
Stéphan Gladieu’s career began in 1989 covering war & social issues, traveling across Europe,Central Asia, the Middle East (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan) and Asia (India, Nepal, Vietnam, China, etc).His work began as travel features, but he became increasingly interested in using portraiture to illustrate the human condition around the world. His portraiture has included covering the Saudi Princes, Princesses in Nepal, actors & directors behind the scenes at Cannes Film Festival, politicians, intellectuals, but also everyday people the world over.Stephan still realize international features and portraits series, for international magazines but he is mainly focus on is personal work: human story through colorful portrait collectionOn the side of his journalist activity, Stephan is working with private companies (LVMH, Danone, TOTAL…) and International Institution (World Bank, UNICEF) to work on their visual identity.Stephan is represented by Olivier Castaing, owner of the School Gallery, in Paris.Nowadays, Stephan Gladieu’s work is published in leading publications in France and internationally.