Enjoying a Mode Muntu ‘s painting (1940-1985) most often triggers a blend of emotions. Jan Hoet, s.m.a.c.k.’s curator, once predicted that Muntu would be the artist of the 20th century.
The modern graphic design of Mode’s artwork vibrates amidst a backdrop of delicate innovations. Funky colour combinations complement sleek silhouettes while, in the background, starslike dots keep twinkling.
An obvious bond links Mode’s life to his work. Greek tragedians would have envied his fate. Born in a small village in Katanga, mocked by his peers, his paintings are today being sold all around the world. Apart from his painting, Muntu could not bear the overwhelming responsibility of life and prefers his inner world he paints frenetically.
The deepest nature of this paintwork is certainly a kind of instinct. His paintings are the quintessence of raw emotions. The final artwork becomes a kaleidoscope of an ever-changing society. Muntu’s career is at a crossroads where art meets history. His works are imbued with this metamorphosis. The man went through the independence, Mobutism and the beginning of an identity crisis where a civilization realizes it is losing its traditional values in favour of a sudden urbanization. Mode was unable to change his vision of a rural ideal. He painted a society proud of its traditions where life, death and spirits coexist. He also illustrates through a few proverbs his vision of a contemporary morality.
The artworks Mode leaves behind him are vibrant and fascinating. They were rediscovered recently thanks to the not-to-be-missed exhibition of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko. The recent monograph about Mode Muntu celebrates the emergence of modern painting in Congo and supports his work through an interesting reading grid and a series of photos that assess a remarkable collection of Muntu’s most remarkable paintings.
Texte de Marie-Aude Priez • Photos Catherine Trautes
About the book: Title : Mode Muntu, pages : 256, Langues : FR, EN, ISBN : 9782930451183, Price : 49 € – 60$ Publisher : Prisme Editions