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DRC: An "unwelcome" presidential election for painter Chéri Samba

Artist Cheri Samba sits in his studio, 03 February 2006, in Kinshasa.   -  
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Democratic Republic Of Congo

Just over two months before the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congolese painter Chéri Samba, whose work is the subject of a retrospective at the Musée Maillol in Paris starting Tuesday, says he is pessimistic about the upcoming election.

"Apart from the elections, I always paint everyday life as it happens. I've always said that my work is a bit like the work of journalists. Journalists get their stories from the news. If there's no news, journalists have no work. So that's what I do too," shared the Congolese artist.

Born in a Congolese village, Chéri Samba is a figure of Congolese popular painting, which emerged in the 70s with a very political touch.

Behind his creative genius, filled with sometimes very pessimistic symbols, this man with a broad smile nevertheless says he believes in the future of his country and of Africa.

“I've got the impression that they won't be good elections because it seems to me that it isn't well-designed, it seems to me that there's already been fraud, that's my point of view. But well, let's see, let's see. But frankly, these elections don't look promising to me," explained Chéri Samba.

Chéri Samba discovered his vocation for drawing at an early age, and began painting advertising signs and comic strips in Kinshasa at the age of 16.

Each of his paintings, in which he often depicts himself, freezes the viewer in place, like "The Vomiting World", a spherical planet with a blood-red child's head spitting out pieces of the American continent, weapons and tanks, created in 2004.

"I like to get people to look at my work, and not just the colours. Because I also have a technique of putting in a bit of bile to bring the viewer closer to my painting. So that they come closer and get inside the painting. So you can see the image and the beautiful colours and read a bit, that's also a technique for bringing people closer to my paintings," added the painter.

The presidential elections scheduled for December in the DRC will oppose incumbent president Felix Tshisekedi, opponent Martin Fayulu and, against all odds, Dr Denis Mukwege, among many others.

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