When he was a little boy, Shaka Fumu Kabaka witnessed the atrocities that occurred in his home town of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo during the six-day war between Rwanda and Uganda in June 2000. Although his own country was not directly involved in the war, more than 1,000 people were killed there, and the memory of seeing the blood of so many dead and wounded people during those days has stayed with Kabaka ever since.
Now he has become part of a collective of artists, Ndaku Ya La Vie Est Belle, in the capital city of Kinshasa who are making wearable art out of trouble as a way to come to terms with their own grief and educate others about social and environmental issues. They are making costumes from rubbish and wearing them around the city streets, shocking, disturbing, informing, and engaging people wherever they go.
Kabani’s own costume (right) is called Matshozi 6 Jours (Six Days of Tears). He made it out of broken dolls that he scavenged over a period of more than a year from household rubbish. “The first time I wore the costume, it was a heavy burden,” he told a reporter. “Not because of the weight, but because of the number of casualties it represents.”
Other apparitions that have wandered the city include Kalenga Kabangu Jared’s wearable conglomeration of broken radio parts, which he created to call attention to the disharmony of fake news. Another street performer, Falonne Mambu, designed Femme Électrique (Electric Woman) out of electric wire. She said, “In the dark, the residents dare not come out of their houses. If there were light, social control would be greater, more people would be on the street. What I experienced on the streets of Kinshasa as a homeless young woman and what many girls still experience today I address through my paintings and performances. I can talk about sexual violence through my work.”