|How to write about a process-based project without in fact having followed the actual process? asks our author Paula Nascimento...
Artists Kapela Paulo and Binelde Hyrcan, Luanda, 2016. Courtesy of Gallery ELA
For the first edition of the project Velhas Histórias, Novos Papéis, (Old Stories, New Narratives) (1) we encounter two contrasting artists whose careers and works are completely distinct. On the one side is Binelde Hyrcan, born in 1983 and an artist of the new wave of Angolan contemporary artists. Trained in Angola and Monaco, Hyrcan is a multimedia artist whose works range over sculpture, painting, drawing, video art and performance, drawing from characters of popular culture, and cartoons, with a strong focus on chickens. The results are complex, humorous and ironic works. One of Hyrcans iconic pieces, the installation Kings and Queens, uses coffins, chickens and satirical characters such as Napoleon to reflect on the concept of vanity and to present a socio-political critique of the power relations of contemporary African societies.
On the opposing side is Kapela Paulo or, as he is best known, Mestre Kapela, a seminal figure in the development of contemporary art in Angola. Born in the province of Uíge on the border with the Congo in 1947, Kapela is a self-taught artist who lived the first part of his life between Angola and the Congo, while working and learning from modern artists in Brazzaville and in Kinshasa, where he followed the Poto-Poto school. He finally settled in Luanda and opened his atelier where he met a number of artists, who later became active and important members of UNAP (the National Union of Artists). Kapela is known for iconic works such as the installations of altars, and for the use of collage, text and narrative to produce complex pieces that intertwine his own personal story of migration between Luanda and the Congo, between being simultaneously a local and a foreigner within the historical framework of Angolas politics.
Despite having been an important figure and a master to many of todays well-known contemporary artists, Kapela has gone through a difficult period, living under precarious conditions which somehow fuelled his creative spirit, leading him to experiment with and develop other techniques and media beyond traditional painting, such as collage, writing, stencils, and recycling materials. This has brought him worldwide recognition for his work, but it is a success that he has never enjoyed or fully understood himself.
What the two artists share is...