Eco Warriors: Precy Numbi & Flory Sinanduku
Belgian photographer Sebastien Van de Walle captured the powerful performance art movement in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo during a 2018 visit. There he met Percy Numbi and Flory Sinanduku who create wildly creative costumes out of the waste and trash that sits in a dried up river bed in a poor neighborhood in the city.
In 2018, Belgian photographer Sébastien Van de Walle went to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, for five-weeks where he was able to work with Precy Numbi, a local artist and activist whose work is engaged with environmental issues, particularly the waste and pollution that fills this sprawling capital city. Numbi brought van de Walle to Matonge, an impoverished neighbourhood that sits along the Kalamu river, an area where there are more plastic bottles littering the community than available drinking water. This is where Numbi takes inspiration and materials to create Kimbalambala, a robot whose costume is made with recycled waste—from car parts to electronic wires. Kimbalambala is a vernacular term that means used-car. When Numbi takes on the role of Kimbalambala, he is a modern-day transformer, a robot-Sapien whose presence raises awareness of the injustice experienced by millions of residents who live in such extremely unhealthy environments. Numbi’s powerful and unsettling performances challenge the local authorities who have allowed the situation to deteriorate so enormously. When he performs, Kimbalambala seems to have risen from the debris, a post-apocalyptic creation, like a surreal scene from Mad-Max. But his work is not a warning – it is too late for warnings; it is a cry for justice and for action to help change this toxic situation. Flory Sinanduku is a multi-talented artist with a passion for drawing and animation. Sinanduku studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasha and, like Numbi, has become a critical artistic voice in the country. He is also currently the coordinator of the Farata Collective, which organizes Kinetelemitelemi, a performance art festival in Kinshasa. Sinanduku confronts environmental issues in his work as well as public health standards. His mother, who was very supportive of his creative pursuits, died unexpectedly and unnecessarily while receiving treatment for a knee injury due to the poor standards of care in the hospital.
He questions the current medical standards and practices which too often seem to not follow any part of the Hippocratic Oath. Sindanduku sees his art as a spirit which resides in him and which, at the time of creation, guides him along as if an object. He uses recycled waste, including medical equipment like syringes, to bring attention to this atrocity which is destroying his community and the entire planet.
Precy Numbi and Flory Sinanduku often work and perform together in the Democratic Republic of Congo; but they are not alone in using performance as a powerful artistic tool to talk about injustice and the environmental crisis in Kinshasha. This city has long been a centre of art and creativity and in recent years it has been gaining long overlooked attention through artist collectives such as Ndaku ya la vie est belle, which is based in Matonge, and Kin’act, a platform that connects and supports performance artists in Africa and Europe. Kin’act also holds an annual event that brings performance art to the public across Kinshasha. Sébastian van de Walle’s photographs are eye-opening, capturing the intensity and the raw power that comes through in these performances. Critically, the images give another platform to convey the urgency of the injustice faced by citizens in Kinshasa, and the depth of artistic talent that has emerged from it.
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