ARTCO Gallery is delighted to present “SOCIAL FABRICS”, the first Belgian solo exhibition of artist Maurice Mbikayi. A selection of works of Mbikayi, encompassing his latest production within the last seven years, highlights the artist’s reflection upon technology and reused material, incorporated in painting, sculpture and photography.
Maurice Mbikayi was born in 1974 in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo). In 2000, he graduated from the Academies des Beaux Arts in Kinshasa with a BA in Graphic Design (Advertising and Visual Communication). In 2015, Maurice graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) with a Master of Fine Art. He currently lives and works in Cape Town.
In his work, the artist reflects on the diverse areas of social life in his native Kinshasa and explores the social fabric there. Characteristic of the urban culture of the Congo is the almost compulsive need, especially of young people, to constantly reinvent themselves by using the body and thus one's own aesthetics as an expression of a multitude of identities or roles.
Following this phenomenon, Maurice Mbikayi deals with the aesthetic value of the disguised body as a manifestation of the senses. "Dandyism" is a phenomenon that is widespread in Congolese everyday life. Eccentric dress and the choice of precise dress codes represent a specific ethical model of local suburban culture that should not be misunderstood as mere vanity. Dandyism is above all a sociological phenomenon, which in the way of dress is a demarcation from what is often perceived as a hostile contemporary environment. An environment with which many young people cannot identify, as it is often anti-democratic, violent and intolerant.
Building on this narrative, Mbikayi also turns to global phenomena and developments, such as the advance of information and communication technologies and their immediate impact on African countries. As information technology becomes more widespread, the world becomes more dependent on the raw materials it requires - such as gold, cobalt and coltan to produce smartphones. These raw materials are mined in the mines of Africa. Here, conditions prevail that are not only harmful to the environment, but also a serious health risk for the workers and their families. While Africa is driving the development and proliferation of these technologies through the supply of raw materials, the continent also bears the brunt of the negative consequences. Much of the West's e-waste is dumped in landfills across the continent. Obsolete and discarded technological goods are collected in huge scrap yards, exposing the people who work in and live near the dumps to hazardous substances and toxic pollutants.
On this, Mbikayi writes : "Instead of looking at these man-made environmental disasters from a purely critical perspective, I look for ways to deal with them in my work. I make discarded computer parts reusable and imagine a world where e-waste is reprocessed and recycled instead of thrown away. By using found materials, I show the creativity of African people who have found countless ways to deal with limited resources. My sculptures and paintings feature figures who have developed radical new approaches to reinvention and change in the midst of ecological, social, and political crises."
It is in this context of tension that impressive collages, sculptures and photographic works are created in his studio in Cape Town, using a variety of e-waste materials. The artist's works have already been exhibited in major museums in Africa and Europe, as well as in the United States and Australia, and is part of important institutional and private collections (Pérez Art Museum in Miami, Smithsonian Institution in Washington). Mbikayi has also received several international awards and fellowships (Luxembourg Art Prize, Biennale of Cape Town, Pro Helvetia – Swiss Art Council).
ARTCO Gallery Brussels
5th November – 23rd December 2023
Chaussée de Waterloo 690, 1180 Uccle
Opening hours: Friday and Saturday, 2 – 6 pm