In the first of a two-part posting, BSA takes you to the 17 million-strong Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see one small street art festival with a lot of heart.
Kin-Graff4 is the fourth edition of this project spearheaded by artist and entrepreneur Yann Kwete, who invites local, national, and international artists to come for a week of painting and special events. This year the theme of the hand-painted mural festival was primarily related to health topics and social issues – as well as a tribute to some of Congo’s favorite musical performers.
American photographer Martha Cooper traveled to the Congo with her cousin Sally for yet one more adventure. They both arrived home in New York with many stories to tell – mostly about how much they enjoyed the people they met there. “From portraits to complex lettering to entire murals, these guys are super talented,” Sally says.
There were 13+ artists (including one female) who first designed their graffiti pieces at a Kin-Graff workshop held at the French Institute of Kinshasa, Martha tells us. Many of the writers belong to Moyindo Tag Nation Crew @moyindo_tag_nation, so you may want to check them out.
The two cousins spent most days dodging foot traffic through the congested streets, marveling at some people’s ability to balance all manner of goods on their heads while navigating with grace through the sometimes chaotic byways. When painting one main wall with brushes and ladders, participants at the festival told personal stories about what it is like to be an artist in this city, and introduced them to friends and family.
“This long wall was in a very central section of the Bandal Municipality with continuous car traffic and passers-by on foot,” Martha says, “A ditch ran parallel to the wall, and these dedicated writers leaped back and forth as they worked.”
We’ll interview Yann Kwete tomorrow for Part II, but please enjoy these Martha Cooper exclusives (and a few from Sally!) of Kin-Graff4 from Kinshasa for today. We begin with a full body condom being painted to remind passersby that safe sex is everyone’s responsibility.