Una vita per l'Africa italian version
Painting

BRAZZA: A SYMBOL FOR HUMANITY

The National Arts Club with NYU's Africa House and The Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo present the US unveiling of a contemporary masterpiece by the Poto-Poto School of Painters, Brazzaville, Congo.

This 60-foot painting, comprising 12 panels, pays homage to Congo’s “founding father”, the humanisTt explorer Pietro di Brazza, after whom Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo is named. Rejecting the racism of his day, this 19th century French educated Italian explorer was the rival of Stanley.  Brazza respected Africans on equal terms and, like no other white colonial, fought to his last breath for their rights.

This unique painting comes to America for the first time. Created in the aftermath of civil war, the piece reflects the explosive vitality that thrives against all odds in Congo today. Drawing from their illustrious heritage the artists have captured heroes, totems and rituals that mirror their country’s breathtaking diversity.

The Poto Poto School of Painters was founded in 1951 and rapidly became known all over Africa. Since then, miraculously master painters have never ceased to train new generation of artists. In 1997, Congo yet again plunged into a brutal civil war. The atelier was plundered and shelled. The artists fled into the forests. Three years later, when the fighting ended, they decided to form a cooperative. Today, when a painting is sold, 30% goes to the collective and 70 to the individual artist. This communal spirit has allowed the school to survive into its fifth decade without any government support.

Like most Congolese, these master painters and their students live in extreme poverty while their leaders profit immensely from the country’s oil wealth. Each morning, the artists convene to work in their shared atelier. At sunset, the crowded cité of Brazzaville falls into darkness. With no electricity, the painters have to use oil lamps or candles like modern-day Caravaggios.

Their marvelous work has little opportunity to travel abroad and receive international recognition. This unique exhibition is a testimony of the redemptive role of art rising like a phoenix above war and desperate hardship, acting as a bridge between cultures.

 

THE NATIONAL ARTS CLUB
15 GRAMERCY PARK SOUTH
212 475 3424 
March 31 – April 19

Pietro Savorgnan di Brazzà, Makoko Iloo I - Una vita per l'Africa
2006 Roma, Parigi, Brazzaville
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