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Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga

Artist 99 Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga Microchipped Painting

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, pays tribute to his Congolese culture through his painted canvases.

Ilunga first photographs his subjects. Then, using acrylic and oil on canvass, he paints the subjects in circuit board silhouettes, adding distinguishing elements of their culture.

The Congolese artist’s singular depiction of human flesh lends his often desolate figures a hybrid, space-age mien. The style originated when Ilunga was 20 and his mobile phone broke. “Looking in my iPhone, I became fascinated,” he says. “I found out that these circuit boards are made of minerals found in Congo.”

Infusing his art with contemporary signs of modern times such as bright linen and technology, he creates an interesting aesthetic on the death and birth of cultures and the factors that bring about these changes.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s biggest producers of coltan, an ore arduously mined by hand that contains tantalum — a key metal for the electronics industry.

“I was shocked that many villages are destroyed by other countries exploiting these minerals,” Ilunga says. Yet few Congolese are aware that raw materials extracted at such human and environmental cost find their way into mobiles and computer chips all over the planet.

His fascination of electronic circuitry traced on bare skin as microchipped flesh is a challenge or rebuke, exposing the exploiting of “man and minerals, inscribed together in the exploitation of our black skin”.

The colourful wax-print fabrics known locally as pagnes bear the imprint of sweatshop labour and a history of globalisation. “Understanding the present through the past is central to my work,” he says

Ilunga sees art as a way to “raise awareness about the conditions and contradictions under which people live. I don’t have trenchant opinions or play the judge; I show my view calmly and allow others to form theirs.”


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