Moridja Kitenge Banza on Real Wax
Moridja Kitenge Banza on Real Wax
DHC/ART Education invites visitors of all ages and art backgrounds to our bi-annual open house from 1:00-5:00 PM on Saturday August 22. Join us, along with multi-media artist Moridja Kitenge Banza, in taking part in the painting workshop Real Wax. Designed by Moridja in collaboration with DHC/ART Education and in conjunction with the exhibition Pièces de résistance, Real Wax challenges participants to create their own hybrid designs in gouache using a piece of real Dutch-wax fabric as a starting point.
Since 2011, DHC/ART Education has invited a local artist, whose work is in keeping with the artist on exhibition, to design a workshop that we can offer to groups who reserve guided visits to the exhibition. The open house is an opportunity to offer this workshop to the general public in a relaxed, drop-in environment — and in direct contact with the participating artist.
Moridja Kitenge Banza works in painting, video, and installation, exploring relationships between fiction and reality, and the intersections of identity, nationality, and place. I recently asked Moridja to explain in more detail how the workshop Real Wax came about and his own relationship to Dutch-wax.*
Emily Keenlyside: When we first discussed the possibility of collaboration, you were very keen to design a workshop that put participants in direct contact with Dutch-wax fabric. Could you tell me a bit about your own knowledge of/experience with this medium? What presence did it have in the collective consciousness and daily life growing up in the Congo?
Moridja Kitenge Banza: Dutch-wax is clothing, but not just any clothing. I grew up with it, because all women have clothing made from it. My mother, my aunts, my grandmother, they all did; and as kids, we did too. It is a part of us, to the point that for me it was Congolese. Dutch-wax is offered to your future wife’s family during the dowry ceremony. The dowry is an ancient African tradition that is still practiced today as it was centuries ago. More than a prerequisite, it is of such uncontested importance that the families of both the bride and groom would be shocked at the idea of not adhering to it. For people who are unfamiliar with it, the dowry is a complex and very formal process of negotiation between the two families to mutually agree on the amount the groom will be required to pay in order to marry the bride. This could be seen as buying and selling, but in fact this custom is in no way commercial. Often the women in the bride’s family will ask for Dutch-wax. It’s a must! My grandmother had a dressmaking shop and during summer vacation my brothers and I would spend a lot of time there, looking at the machines and all of these people who were working. We also had fun gathering the scraps that fell to the floor. At the time I didn’t try to understand where this fabric originated or why we called it Dutch and not Congolese. It was later, as I became more politically aware and wanted to understand the history of my country, that I learned that it wasn’t a Congolese product.
EK: Hybridity and appropriation are two important concepts that underpin the workshop. How might participants engage with these concepts as they create their works?
MKB: Hybridity and appropriation are definitely the two concepts that tie the exhibition Pièces de résistance and the workshop Real Wax together. I think the first thing that will pique participants’ interest is the material, the colour. The second thing is the unknown, the unknown in the creative process, because they will be working with a small piece of fabric to create something new. I think beyond that it’s the challenge of starting with one thing and creating something else that may have little or nothing to do with the original.
EK: You’re also an art educator yourself, having taught people of all ages and diverse backgrounds. How would you describe your own approach to working with the public?
MKB: My approach to working with the public is as a mediator. I provide points for reflection that allow them to create their own experience.
During this Saturday’s open house we will also be offering guided visits of Yinka Shonibare MBE’s Pièces de résistance: in English at 1:00 PM and in French at 2:00 PM.
*Responses were translated from the original French.
Photo: With the permission of DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art