Congo Stars


Opening: 22.09.2018, 11 am

Congo Stars takes place as part of steirischerherbst'18.

Curated by: Sammy Baloji, Bambi Ceuppens, Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Günther Holler-Schuster and Barbara Steiner

About the exhibition

Congo Stars shows Congolese popular paintings from the 1960s to the present day as well as Congolese contemporary art, also from artists now living in Paris and Brussles, with loans from the MRCA in Tervuren, the Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth, private collectors and from Austrian collections such as the Sammlung Armin Prinz der Österreichischen Ethnomedizinischen Gesellschaft, Sammlung Horvath Politischer Kunst, Weltmuseum Wien, Sammlung Peter Weihs et al..

The inclusion of Austrian collections offers an unusual view on the "Peinture Populaire" as they present rarely or never shown works from this genre. The medical anthropologist and physician Armin Prinz, who has built up the collection for the Österreichische Ethnomedizinische Gesellschaft as well as essential parts of the Sammlung Horvath Politischer Kunst since the early 1970s, did not collect according to aesthetic criteria, but selected the artworks based on contentual considerations. Hereby, the medial or documentary aspect of this art becomes particularly clear. Peter Weihs, on the other hand, was professor for ceramics at the "Academy of Fine Arts" in Kinshasa in the 1970s and 80s and, as such, had contact with the popular painters very early. Some of them, like Chéri Cherin, were also his students.

The conjunction of the "Peinture Populaire" with positions of Congolese contemporary art, which is an important aspect of the exhibition Congo Stars, can certainly be described as a novelty. The artists who live and work partly in the Diaspora (e.g. Paris or Brussels) or in the Congo - mainly in the capital Kinshasa - often have the same themes in mind as the "Peinture Populaire", but at the same time they have made themselves stand out clearly or emancipated themselves. Analytically, detailed, reaching many meta-levels, they work in different media.

With the addition of documentary material (photos, films, posters, etc.), the exhibition becomes a conglomeration of different information and visual media. In doing so, it achieves a density, modeled on the structure of a city, that for the visitors is almost overwhelming visually and in terms of content. Urban juggernauts such as the capital of the Congo are the role models. The synchronicity of information or the chaotic accumulation of different visualities creates an explosive and electric climate of a big city. This reflects this exhibition on a symbolic level.

The Congolese writer resident in Graz, Fiston Mwanza Mujila, created an imaginary location in 2016 by the name of Tram 83. While this place proceeds from the reality of Congolese cities – e.g. Lubumbashi und Kinshasa, it could nonetheless be almost anywhere – including Graz. This book forms the starting point for the Congo Stars exhibition.

In addition, Congo Stars places a special emphasis on the historical and current relations between Styria, Austria and the Congo, starting with diplomatic relations and educational programs in the 1960s, the founding of the Afro-Asian Institute in 1964, to the Congolese writer in residence Fiston Mwanza Mujila in Graz and Austrian collections of Congolese art.

The exhibition will be structured along the following chapters:

  • EXPLOITATION (of resources, mining, poverty, "Article 15" , political and economic situation);
  • MYTHOLOGY/ SPIRITUALITY (invocation of higher powers - Mami Wata, churches etc.);
  • BAR (the bar as a place between reality and imagination, as a place for business, pleasure, sexuality etc.);
  • STARS/PUBLIC HEROES (in politics, music, paintings, fashion, "sapeurs", sports and "afronauts");
  • MARKET/STREETS (city/urban space/urban theatre - multiple perspectives on the city and market life, also nostalgic views of landscape, village life and nature) and
  • HOME (private space/living room - portraits, interior, representation).

Both the works of popular paintings and contemporary artists will be shown along this structure. The focus is also on transitions between private, semi-public and public spaces.

In addition to these chapters, a TIMELINE will describe important events in the genesis of the Congo. However, linearity will be avoided by allowing both horizontal and vertical readings. Complementary to the paintings, videos and reproductions will be integrated. This is conducive to the mediation and contextualization of the exhibited works.

The exhibition will be shown in Kunsthaus Graz from 22.09.2018 to 27.01.2019 and Kunsthalle Tübingen from 09.03.2019 bis 30.06.2019.
Funded by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

With works by

Abis, Alfi Alfa, Sammy Baloji, Gilbert Banza Nkulu, Chéri Benga, Bodo, Vitshois Mwilambwe Bondo, Burozi, Dominique Bwalya Mwando, Chéri Cherin, Trésor Cherin, Djilatendo, Ekunde, Sam Ilus, Jean Kamba, Lady Kambulu, Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Kasongo, Jean Mukendi Katambayi, Aundu Kiala, J.P. Kiangu, Bodys Isek Kingelez, Ange Kumbi, Hilaire Balu Kuyangiko, Londe, Albert et Antoinette Lubaki, Gosette Lubondo, Ernest Lungieki, George Makaya Lusavuvu, Tinda Lwimba, Michèle Magema, Maurice Mbikayi, Maman Masamba, Matanda, Mbuëcky Jumeaux, JP Mika, Mega Mingiedi Tunga, Moke, Moke-Fils, Gedeon Ndonda, Nkaz Mav, Vincent Nkulu, Vuza Ntoko, Chéri Samba, SAPINart, Monsengo Shula, Sim Simaro, Maître SYMS, Tambwe, Tshibumba Kanda Matulu, Pathy Tshindele Kapinga, Tuur Van Balen & Revital Cohen and many more.

In cooperation with the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, the Kunsthalle Tübingen, the Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth and PICHA in Lubumbashi.

In the middle of preparations for Congo Stars, the medical anthropologist and doctor Armin Prinz, one of the most important experts on Congolese art, passed away.
The exhibition is also dedicated to his memory.





BIG WIRBEL 2018. Congo Stars

Event, Aktion> Kunsthaus Graz

Event, Aktion

> Kunsthaus Graz


In the frame of


Funded by the TURN Fund of the
German Federal Cultural Foundation:


Kunsthaus Graz

Lendkai 1
8020 Graz, Österreich
T +43-316/8017-9200


Opening Hours
Tue-Sun, public holidays 10am - 5pm

Guided tours
Sun 2pm (EN), Sat 3:30pm (GER), Sun & public holidays 11am (GER), exceptions may apply. For specific dates, please visit our calendar. Guided tours also on advance notice.

Architecture Tour 
during exhibition free times only, Sun 2pm (EN), Tue-Sun & public holidays (GER) 11am, 2pm & 3:30pm or upon request

Mon-Thurs 9am-11pm
Fri-Sat 9am-1am
Sun 9am-8pm
T: +43-316/714 957


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