Congolese Artists Transform Garbage Into Garb to Take a Stand » Design You Trust


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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, artists’ creations protest the country’s plight as a dump for global waste. After years studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, Kinshasa — following teachers’ advice on creating work with “proper” materials, such as resin and plaster of paris — some students in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) decided to do something different.

They created art with what was in their immediate environment, including tires, exhaust pipes, foam, plastic bottles, antennas, tins that had held milk or paint, feathers, CDs, rubber slippers, and other discarded items. This work, the artists believed, felt familiar to a Congolese audience and spoke to a particularly egregious aspect of Congolese life: waste.

In 2015 they laid the groundwork for a collective to institutionalize the art: Ndaku Ya Life Is Beautiful, led by Eddy Ekete. A Kinshasa-born artist and social activist, Ekete also founded the KinAct festival, an annual showcase for the provocative creations. Increasingly, for the artists, the waste provides an opening to comment on fraught sociopolitical issues.

More: National Geographic, Stephan Gladieu, Instagram

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

Stephan Gladieu began his career in 1989, covering war and social issues, travelling throughout Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Reporter in his early days, very quickly used the portrait to illustrate the human condition around the world. Today he still produces reports and portrait series for international magazines, but he focuses mainly on his personal and artistic work through portrait series whose DNA is the colour and rigorous composition. He likes the iconic character of an image, its frontality, its readability and the boundary between real and unreal.

His last series are mainly done in Asia and Africa.

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic

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Stéphan Gladieu/National Geographic





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