Patrick Bongoy was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. He currently lives and works in Cape Town.
The textured surfaces on which Bongoy works are the product of a painstaking process of cutting and weaving together strips of hessian and rubber. This technique, as well as the additional sculpted layers of fabric that he adds on top, reference some of the many laborious tasks undertaken by woman in the DRC in order to make ends meet. Yet the painted figures and life size sculptures hum with a sense of discord, rather than hard labour. These figures with their distorted limbs become symbols of the moral corruption that slinks it way through the postcolonial DRC. Bongoy’s figures writhe over his textured canvases evoking a sense of disjointed or uncontrolled movement as if controlled by an unknown puppeteer. His figures look as if their bodies are frozen in mid-performance of a dubious act over which their mind no longer has control. However, rather than being sternly didactic, Bongoy’s works tell sad narratives that focus on the most vulnerable members of society and how they are often exploited by those in power.
“My work speaks in response to the global reality of literal and figurative environmental pollution. This encompasses the entire spectrum from the erosion of economic viability for people, sociocultural decay impacting on community and individual behavior and natural rural and urban landscape.
I draw on the history of my roots in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the irony of contemporary urban degradation masked as development. Through the recovery of waste materials such as inner tubes from vehicle tyres, industrial packaging and textiles combined with my use of paint and African fabric, I repurpose and reinterpret what others discard. Beyond the intentional recycling element of this process, the visual concepts I explore surface a range of the pertinent issues.
Additional sculpted objects are superimposed on these layered backgrounds, which I create as a foundational canvas. This is also a visual referencing of some of the many laborious tasks undertaken by women in my country, in order to make ends meet. I try to understand how the deterioration of natural and urban settings mirrors the visible rotting, displayed in the behaviour and habits of the population. Deprivation evidently continues to recreate further misery and desperation.
Although my work reflects a kind of beauty, it also describes the destruction of a place and a people where ethical values have been poisoned or fallen away, infecting human morality and dignity. The aftermath of several violent conflicts has created a nightmarish atmosphere where people relive those moments in an extreme state of vulnerability and resignation to this state of affairs.
My painted figures, always in silhouette, with their deformed limbs and precarious stances, twist and turn in such spaces. They evoke a sense of uncontrolled or dynamic movement captured in a disjointed moment, as if their bodies are mid-execution of a questionable act. However, the internal versus external appearances and perspectives – what is seen in contrast to what is understood, becomes the site of re- imagination and unforeseen possibilities.”