2018 Out of Chaos, Beaux Arts London
2010 Renaissance. Congo 2010, maison du Tourisme du Pays de Herve
2007 Freddy Tsimba, l’espirit Guerrier, Fondation Jean-Paul Blachere, Apt, France
2004 Freddy Tsimba : Un sculpteur, un regard sur le Congo, Atrium de l’Hôtel de Ligne, Bruxelles
2003 Formes et Sculptures, La Chapelle, France
Au-delà de la matière, Espace bibliothèque, Coucouron, France
2002 Regarde des Autres, Dijon, France
2000 Hotel Memling, Kinshasa
1999 Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles, Kinshasa
1997 Galerie Giga, Kinshasa
1989 Graduated from Académie des Beaux-Arts de Kinshasa
2011 “Wote Pamoja”, Congo
2010 Un giorno di felicità, international contemporary art exhibition miniartextilcomo, Museo Civico Archeologico, Como, Italy
Bakeyi na biso wapi, outdoor installation as part of the ‘Fêtes de Gand’
Brave new Worlds , Essen (DE), coordination KVS-Koninklijkvlaamschouwburg (BE)
Indépendance c ha cha, Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren / Brussels
La RDC en 2060, Mercedes House, Brussels
Nuit africaine, Bois des Rêves-Ottignies
AFRIfestival, Gallery @Kultuurkaffe, VUB Campus Etterbeek,
Voies de la liberté, Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve Cultural Centre
2009 Africa Fast Forward/Avance rapide/Snel vooruit, Atomium and AfricaMuseum, Brussels
Afriques Art contemporain, Paris
…Persona, Tervuren Museum, Brussels, Belgium
2008 Africa Now, Washington DC, USA
Semaine africaine au Parlement européen, Brussels
Art Brussels, Brussels
Miroirs, Dakar, Sénégal
Recycl’Art, Centre d’art contemporain de l’Outaouais, Montpellier, Québec, Canada
2007 Terre noire, Departmental Museum Maurice Denis, Saint-Germain-en-Lay, France
Lelo Lobi (Aujourd’hui Demain), Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles, Paris
Freddy Tsimba et Kura Shomali, L’arthothèque, Brussels
Congo en marche, Brussels
Congo contemporain, Monos Art Gallery, Liège
commune d’Ixelles, Bruxelles
2006 L’homme est un mystère #2, Brittany, France
Afrique Europe : rêves croisés, Brussels
1st Festival of the ACP States, Dominican Republic
Afrique : Entendus, sous-entendus et malentendus, Dakar, Senegal
Crise d’Afrique, Château Malou, Brussels
2005 Congo-Haïti, fête de la sculpture, Port-au-Prince, Haïti
Arroyo, Saint-Remy Hospital Centre, Faverney, Franche-Comté, France
Puissance 4, Sainte-Marie Hospital Centre, Le Puy en Velay, Haute-Loire, France
Pas de quartier pour le rêve, Paris
2004 Routes et couleurs de la pierre, Maison Folie, Choisel, Tournai, Belgium
Adai, Voyage dans l’art contemporain, Château d’Alba La Romaine, Ardèche, France
2003 Impact, Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles , Paris
Love, Galerie Barnoud, Dijon, France
L’Europe fantôme, Espace Vertebra, Brussels
1999 l’Art et la Paix, Cantharide Gallery
1998 Collective exhibition, British Embassy, Kinshasa
1997 Collective exhibition, Centre culturel français, Kinshasa
Collective exhibition, Kinshasa
1995 50 ans de l’UNESCO, Kimbanguist Conference Centre, Kinshasa
1994 Mixed exhibition, hôtel Memling, Kinshasa
Solidarité sans frontière : aujourd’hui Rwanda, Hôtel Intercontinental Kinshasa
1992 Sport, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Kinshasa
Freddy Tsimba was born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1967 where he now lives. He trained as a sculptor at the Academy of Fine Arts learning blacksmithing and welding techniques as part of his training, graduating in 1989. His education coincided with an awakening of contemporary issues and new ways in investigating and expressing them.
The Kinshasa Academy of Fine Arts was founded in 1943. It quickly established itself as the most progressive and dynamic art school in Africa. In setting its curriculum, it encouraged students to explore all sorts of artistic experimentation and thus lead to the emergence of a genuinely progressive, indigenous culture of African contemporary art. What began to emerge in the 1960s, fostered by the Academy, was, for example, the popular painting movement adopting some of the formal characteristics of popular cartoons to represent subjects of street life and eventually to caricature themes of international politics. Painting, photography and drawing showed significant development. And the work of Freddy Tsimba in the 1980s revolutionized Congolese sculpture.
These developments have not gone unnoticed on the international scene. The work of Freddy Tsimba has been represented in more than 50 exhibitions in Africa, Europe, Canada and China. He has attended workshop residencies in France, South Africa and Haiti. He has collected a number of prestigious awards, for example, the silver medal at the Jeux de la Francophonie, Ottawa in 2001 and won the artist’s prize at the Blavozy Cultural Centre competition (France) in 2005. He was the guest of honour of the Parliament of the French Community of Belgium in 2004 and yet it is only now, in 2018, that he has his first exhibition in Britain at the Beaux-Arts Gallery, London.
African art and in particular, African contemporary art has been gaining a more prominent profile in Britain in recent years. The British Museum under the recent directorship of Neil MacGregor gave it greater emphasis. Similarly, the Victoria and Albert Museum has given it greater attention. British jeweller David Poston was inspired by contemporary African art during his working trips to Africa. We can compare his work to Freddy Tsimba’s sculptures, particularly the Coca-Cola pectoral cross which Poston made in 2004 from recycled metal caps off Coca-Cola bottles, gathered for him by the barman in the famous Hotel des Milles Collines, Rwanda. Its acquisition for the Sacred Silver Galleries in the V&A caused a certain amount of controversy, inviting accusations of blasphemy. Poston’s response was to pose a series of questions which included what a corporate multinational brand was doing in sub-Saharan Africa. Poston had visited Africa several times under a United Nations scheme to train rural communities in basic blacksmithing skills so that they could become self-sufficient in providing themselves with basic agricultural tools. What he had noticed in these poor rural communities was the provision of a fridge by multinational drinks corporations. Rwanda was Coca-Cola country; the Sudan belonged to Pepsi. But controversially the gift of a fridge came with one condition. It could only stock the company product. It was forbidden to use it for anything else such as keeping medicines fresh. If this rule got broken, the fridge was removed. Poston’s message was to highlight the hypocrisy of this corporate behaviour. Was it a Christian act to deny the possibility of preserving lifesaving medicines to these impoverished communities?
The pectoral cross symbolizes corporate ruthlessness, exploitation and an underlying political message. It is a protest at international corporate manipulation and greed. Similarly the work of Freddy Tsimba is certainly that and displays an even greater intensity. He too uses found objects to construct his pieces only this time they are often spent cartridge cases from the battlefield. In On a marché dans la forêt (pg 12), Woman with the rest of rebel (Pg 34) and Forme (Pg 20) in this exhibition, headless torsos are constructed from densely welded cartridge cases. Forme represents the headless body of a pregnant woman. The lack of a head with identifiable facial features is often used by this sculptor to emphasize the anonymity of the victims he portrays. Other figures with outstretched arms, raised in supplication are created from densely woven and welded spoons. Forme n°13003 (Pg 38) has as well as no head, truncated limbs and yet has a visceral, sensual eloquence and beauty.
The artist reminds us that history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a distressing one. With its mineral wealth alone, the DRC should be one of the richest countries in Africa. Instead, it is one of the poorest. Instability, a lack of infrastructure, corruption and a history of colonial and corporate exploitation has left the nation prone to successive international and civil warfare. An area in the eastern sector of the country, running northward from Mitwaba to Manono and back to Pweta has been aptly named `The Triangle of Death.’ It has been the scene of constant struggle between rebel forces and the armed forces of the DRC (FARDC). The situation has become further confused when brutal repression by both rebel and government forces has been carried out and which has included indiscriminate firing on civilians, rapes, looting and torching of houses. Malnutrition has been rife since UN agencies refuse to enter conflict zones for fear of their own safety.
Tsimba’s figures and torsos composed of welded spoons convey a certain ambiguity. The spoon is an implement for eating. Or can we evoke an ironic twist on the saying that somebody is rich because he/she is born with a silver spoon in his mouth? The bodies might indicate the hope of food to be delivered by relief agencies but equally, they could signify despair at the impossibility of delivery and the consequent starvation. The bodies composed of used cartridge cases display no such ambiguity. These components directly reference war zones and the truncated limbs suggest the ubiquitous presence of land mines. What is not in short supply are guns and ammunition. Tsimba’s sculptures are a mute but powerful testimony to the destruction and corruption of armed conflict, not just in Africa but throughout the world.
To place Freddy Tsimba’s work firmly in an international context, it is worth comparing it to the work by the young Ukrainian artist, Daria Marchenko. In a recent exhibition, Five Elements of War, at the Ukrainian Institute of America, East 79th Street, New York her portrait, over seven foot high, titled, “The Face of War” dramatically depicts Vladimir Putin, the figure behind the calculated conflict in the Ukraine and is composed entirely of five thousand bullet casings gathered from the front line in Donbas. These artists explore wide-ranging themes including socio-political complexities, propaganda, misinformation generated by conflict to generalities of human nature in time of war.
Eric Turner, Curator
Department of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass
Victoria and Albert Museum.