Bezalel Ngabo is the only indigenous Congolese visual artist who featured in the Francophone Fortnight at Alliance Francaise. He’s also the only one out of the three who trained formally in fine art.
Both Yves Goscinny and Xavier Verhorst are self-taught which, however, doesn’t diminish the value of their art. But Bezalel’s five years at the Kinshasa Academy of Art is apparent in his lovely mixing of colours and his ingenious use of kitenge cloth in his collage paintings.
The positive messages in his paintings probably have nothing to do with his rigorous training, except perhaps to give him the courage to consistently depict Biblical themes in his art.
For instance, the most colourful work in his current show at Alliance Francaise is a semi-abstract diptych entitled ‘Joseph the Dreamer’ which depicts the Old Testament patriarch using mixed media: kitenge, acrylic paint, paper, thread and collage.
‘The Secret of Creation’ reflects his love for both the Book of Genesis and the Gospel according to John. The irony is the painting is monochromatic, not rainbow multi-hued. He says blood red symbolizes for him the beauty of love.
His association of love and shades of red is even more apparent in his ‘Love World, the World I dream of’ which is the only one of his paintings that is strictly abstract, suffused with splashes of red, maroon, yellow and white.
Bezalel’s been in Kenya since 2002 and in that time, he’s exhibited all over Nairobi, from the National Museum, Banana Hill and Braeburn School to Village Market, Valley Arcade and a range of restaurants (Seven Seas, Talisman, Osteria).
Currently keen on kitenge and collage, Bezalel’s most exhilarating painting for me in his AF collection is called Le Pagne or Kitenge in which he “celebrates the uniqueness of Africa,” an expression that could apply to his entire contribution to the group exhibition.