Master’s and Fine Art graduate shares powerful story behind his work
Artist and recent Northern School of Art Master’s and BA Fine Art graduate Charly Mupenga-Lusilao has depicted the incredible story of his life, which has brought him from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the North-East of England, in a stunning painting entitled ‘My Story’.
Charly is an independent mural painter creating abstract and figurative paintings whose work varies from large-scale wall paintings to digital portraits. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he started his art studies there at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa. After coming to the UK he continued his training at The Northern School of Art, graduating this year from the School’s MA Arts Practice course after completing his BA Hons Fine Art the previous year.
He recently joined networking body Tees Valley New Creatives which supports newly trained creative professionals to expand their potential, secure work, and unlock new opportunities in their field and shared the powerful meaning behind his work and his ‘My Story’ artwork.
“The inspiration for my work comes from political issues in Africa and more specifically from my country, DR Congo. This has profoundly influenced my work. I draw inspiration from various facets of daily life; such as the social, political and economic field in Africa, as well as more broadly in the modern world. But I don’t limit myself to these concepts, my inspiration changes according to the reality that surrounds me.
“‘My Story’ (pictured at the top) is a painting that speaks of my professional experience that I underwent when I was in Africa precisely in the Congo, it is also the reason why I left my country in a very clandestine way to take refuge in England.
“As an activist artist, my work denounces the bad governance of the country and several other things like wars, injustices, violence, exploitation of children etc.
“In 2015, the government wanted to change the constitution so that President Kabila would remain in power when his term had already ended, which was not easy for them, people did not agree. As an artist, I couldn’t keep quiet about all that. I used my painting to get the message across and raise awareness. I organised exhibitions in public places to convey my message to the people.
“It was during the election period and the message was: ‘No to dictatorship. Stop killing us. Do not touch my constitution.’ On December 15, 2015, the opposition had organised a big demonstration to go to the headquarters of the parliament when the law was being voted on to give the president a third term.
“I was the leader with a handwritten banner saying, ‘Don’t touch my constitution’. There were clashes between the police and the demonstrators. A lot of people died that day and many arbitrary arrests were made.
“I lost my artist friend, who I honoured in this painting (seen to the far left of the painting). He is the one who sat next to me when we were arrested. We were made to sit on the ground, our feet bound by a rope like thieves. We were then transferred to Fe Makala prison in Kinshasa, where I spent two years.
“The way I found my freedom was really lucky. President Kabila’s opponent Mwanda Ntsemi was also in prison and his supporters had come in the night to get him out. There were exchanges of fire between the police and his men. They were successful in freeing their leader and they freed more than 3000 prisoners including me.
“When I got out of the prison, people outside helped me get rid of the prison clothes so that I wouldn’t be arrested again and forced to return. The clothes from the jail were hidden by the mothers selling on the streets. They helped me hide the jail clothes in their merchandise and gave me the t shirt I used to cover my face. I got a motorbike to pick me up at the border and after that I had to flee to the neighbouring country.”
Charly is currently working on his most recent commission, a mural in the newest branch of African and Caribbean restaurant chain Manjaros in Brick Lane in London’s East End which he describes as “an abstract composition of cubism” and a fake wall effect created using plaster, acrylic and coffee.
To see more of Charly’s work visit his Instagram page @mupenga_arts12
Find out about Tees Valley New Creatives here