Aimé Mpane is an artist from Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), who also works from a studio in Brussels. Mpane is known for his roughly-hewn, brightly painted plywood portraits - mosaic-like wall hangings, and sculptures that depict the faces of his local community whilst also making searing political commentary about issues such as the Congolose economy, Colonialism and aid.

Aimé carves or hacks into his surfaces using an ancient tool called an adze. This method creates negative spaces in the material that form a splintered window to the wall behind, meanwhile causing dramatic effects with the play of light and shadow. These shadows on the walls behind at times create ghostly, sinister forms, and at others, enhance the character of the person depicted giving them a wonderful 4D quality. This process of chipping and revealing at the surface is deeply ritualistic and symbolic in Mpane's work, and represents an attempt to expose a greater transparency within a society plagued by corruption and atrocity.

This new series is made out of black drawing paper that Aimé has pierced and torn into to create the outline of a face, again using his signature Adze tool. It makes direct reference to his plywood portraits of the same process, composition and dimensions - but this time we see Aimé working with a much more fragile material and in monochrome. This move from using bright colours to a monochrome palette could be taken literally as the artist viewing things in 'black and white'. The title of the series, Ekoma Bongo, means "it is so, nothing can be done" in Lingala, and is therefore a series about the need for honesty and transparency in the face of fragility, shadow and corruption. He says: "With all of the atrocities that we face in contemporary society, I have always wondered if man still has a conscience. The presence of a looming conscience is symbolised by the projection of shadow in my installations."

In this edition, Aimé has customised each work with the letter "K" - this could refer to the seat of power: K as king, or it could refer to K as Kinshasa - a symbol of the people. Masks in Congolese culture were traditionally reserved for Kings, but here Aimé subverts tradition, depicting the everyday faces of his community, the people of Kinshasa. 

Mpane was raised and received his BFA in his native Congo before going on to study in Europe at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels in Brussels, Belgium. He continues to split his time between the two countries. His work has been exhibited internationally and is in important public and private collections including The Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC and the Brooklyn Museum, New York. This series has been produced exclusively for Partnership Editions in collaboration with Nomad Gallery, and will be exhibited at AKAA Fair from 10th - 12th November 2017.

Ekoma Bongo

Aimé Mpane

Pencil on torn paper
30 x 31cm
This artwork is from a series of 20, but each one has been personalised with a hand-painted letter 'K' by the artist and hence each is unique.

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Aime with work
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Aime Studio, Congo
Aime portrait