When it comes to African costumes, we mostly have stereotype images in mind, of the tribal dance costumes, made of raffia, feathers, extravagant headdresses and the like; or what about the necklaces of colourful beads, popular amongst the Masai?

But the costumes of the KinAct festival, organised – I think – annually in August, in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, beg to differ. Here the costumes of several street artists, many of them part of an art collective called ‘Ndaku Ya La Vie Est Belle’, are on display.

Arnold Dumbi in his costume named “Réveillez-vous” or ‘wake-up’ made out of cigarette packs.
jerry can man

The artists themselves parade their costumes, made from rubbish found on dumps or in the streets, through the city’s neighbourhoods, trying to make a statement. A creation made from parts of broken radios, by Kalenga Kabangu Jared, is a protest against fake news. Shaka Fumu Kabaka’s costume, made from discarded dolls, refers to a six day bloodbath in Kisangani, in 2000, when Ugandan and Rwandese troops fought a battle. Floryan Sinanduku has made several costumes highlighting the poor medical facilities in the country; his syringes costume actually predates the Corona pandemic by a few years. The originator of this trend, Eddy Ekete, put together his first costume already in 2010, from empty drink cans, to emphasize the increasing amount of garbage accumulating in the city.

I have collected a number of pictures from Internet (see sources below) to show you some examples of this incredible art form, also as a positive counterpart for my rather depressing entry of traveling the Congo River. I believe many photos have been taken by Belgian photographer Kris Pannecoucke. I hope he doesn’t object to me reproducing some of my favourites here. Others come from the KinAct Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/kinact1). And let’s hope, with Anna Battista, author of the irenebrination site hereunder, that these costumes at one stage can be admired at exhibitions around the world. Otherwise, I may have to travel to Kinshasa, one day, after all.




a costume called “MATSHOZI 6 jours” (‘6 days of TEARS’), made by artist Shaka from bloodied dolls, honouring the victims of a 6 days war in Kisangani in 2000
a costume made of discarded syringes
another, more predictable, subject, a costume from condoms (from the KinAct Facebook page)
costume made out of medicine strips
Patrick Kitete in a costume made of flip-flops he recovered from the streets of Kinshasa.
another obvious subject matter, the empty tins as costume material
a young artist with his costume “Capsule, Congo est Malade” or ‘Congo is sick’.
Shaka again, now in his costume ‘Covid 19’, named after children in Kinshasa shouted “corona, corona” at him.
a costume made of human hair collected from hairdressers in Kinshasa.
street art performer ‘Sarah’ in Kinshasa posing with her costume ‘‘Kiadi Kibeni’’ or ‘Poor me’.
and, of course, mobile phones form another obvious target
and the last one – for now, until after I return from Kinshasa with my own pictures!!
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