Everybody loves chocolate.
The launch party for the new Cercle d’Artdes Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League) exhibition will take place at SculptureCenter on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. Then the Long Island City gallery will present the show from Jan. 29 through March 27.
This is CATPC’s first official exposition in the United States. The collective consists of plantation workers in Congo who create art with cacao as a primary material. In collaborative settings, they mold figures from clay, 3D print them, and then cast them in chocolate.
The SculptureCenter will display existing and newly crafted sculptures and drawings by CATPC members. Many pieces are future, present, and ancestral self-representations.
There’s a political aspect to this genre, as it challenges global trade and worker exploitation while questioning the inherent value of art. These CATPC members harvest cacao beans for international export, and though labor intensive and back-breaking, the job pays very little. Just like other plantation laborers in Africa, CATPC members cannot live off of the their wages and lack basic amenities such as clean water and electricity. They sell their art for small sums, and CATPC reinvests the profits into new, self-owned agricultural production.
The show will also share information on CATPC’s sister organization, the Institute for Human Activities, which seeks to publicize and stir reflection about solutions to worldwide economic inequality. Dutch artist Renzo Martens, who founded IHA, has been working in Congo — a central African nation that has tremendous natural resources but extreme poverty due largely to government corruption, political unrest, and war — since 2012.
CATPC’s members include Djonga Bismar, Matthieu Kilapi Kasiama, Cedrick Tamasala, Mbuku Kimpala, Mananga Kibuila, Jérémie Mabiala (whose piece is the front image for this post), Emery Mohamba, and Thomas Leba, along with ecologist René Ngongo and artists Michel Ekeba, Eléonore Hellio, and Mega Mingiedi, who live in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo.
Images courtesy of CATPC