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20.000 x 16.000 x 0.750 inches
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Painting - Oil On Canvas
As an African descent, I was fortunate to have visited and lived in Kinshasa, Zaire (Congo) in the late 60’s, after Congo’s independence on June 30, 1960.
At that time, President Joseph Desire’ Mobutu (b.1930-d.1997) was in power from 1965 to 1997. He launched a “Retour a l’Authenticite’” program which is a doctrine of authenticity. He wanted to bring unity and a strong national identity to Congo. He urged Africans to return to their cultural ancestral heritage. He sought a rupture from their Belgian colonial past. The national garment for men was a tunic like style clothing instead of the western suit and tie; or the men would wear the “dashiki” style as a button-down shirt. The national garment for women was the “pagne”, a long, colorful wrap skirt worn around the waist with their blouse. The women sometimes wore a head tie.
Going to the village was a cultural gala for me. It was always fascinating for me to see the women’s hairdos. From children to older women, the spiky hairdo was the style. This hairstyle was described as “Antenne” in French; in English, “Antenna”. The women wore long, colorful skirt (pagne). With their clothing and hairdos’ signature, they looked very confident and gracious.
A sight that puzzled me was a woman carrying an agricultural instrument like a shovel, a scythe, a pitch fork, a rake or a hoe with her infant at her back. My father explained to me- the women are the one who cultivate the land. The female responsibility is caring for the infants. In addition, in the rural area, the women have the bulk of agricultural work; gathering wood for the cooking; cropping food (cassava), and hauling water. The rural Congolese woman is a very hard working person.
The Congolese woman is very friendly and courteous. Upon entering the village, my father and I were greeted with hand clapping and partial bowing.
This is an honor for me to pay tribute to the Congolese woman.
January 29th, 2012
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