This blog was written by American mural artist Christine Kuhn.
From November 17 through December 10, I had the opportunity to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of the Community Engagement through the Arts program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
Académie des Beaux-Arts
In November and December, I had the good fortune to work with 20 talented students of Kinshasa’s Académie des Beaux Arts to design and paint a 230-foot-long mural, representing the beauty of the Congo and paying homage to its unique musical, environmental, artistic, and human contributions to world culture. The interaction with these students was an eye-opener. Most were already fully-formed artists in their own right and their interpretation of the positive aspects of Congolese culture was spot-on. Working with great focus on a busy boulevard with a continuous stream of spectators, honking horns and incessant heat, they managed to create a huge masterpiece in only a few weeks. Bravo!
In Kinshasa, I visited a special place where orphaned girls can find a loving home. It’s called Matumaini, which means “hope” in Swahili. In late November, I met many of the girls and painted a mural with them. I was joined by Kinshasa-based artist Eddie Budiongo and representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa and Culture +, a Congolese non-profit organization. Together, we designed and painted a small mural representing “hope,” symbolized by a sprout reaching for the sun. The girls and Matumaini staff pitched in, helping finish the mural in a record time of about three hours. We hope it inspires the girls to dream big!
In early December, I had the pleasure of traveling down the DRC’s best highway from the capital city of Kinshasa to the port city of Matadi. Matadi means “stone” and points to the city’s terrain – hilly with rocky outcrops and cliffs all around. It hosts a multitude of picturesque views of mountains and rivers and is home to a colorful, lively group of working artists. Together, in only 14 hours, we designed and painted a mural celebrating cooperation and friendship between the United States and the DRC. The mural is housed in Centre pour la littérature et l’animation culturelle (CLAC) and decorates the walls of the newly opened American Shelf – a small library hosted by the library of the Bas-Congo provincial Ministry of Education with support from the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa.
In October and early November, I began work on designing a mural with the Bukavu Youth Action Center (BYAC). The members of the BYAC were quick to decide on a theme for their mural – women’s empowerment and the idea that women lead and inspire the nation. The style of the mural was inspired by one of my all-time favorite muralists, Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas. Although I was scheduled to fly to Bukavu to help paint the mural, a series of canceled flights made that impossible. Thankfully, the talented artists of Bukavu had it all under wraps, painting an inspiring mural in record time!