Angalia - African contemporary art
Angalia - African contemp
Angalia - African contemporary art


Born in 1963 in Lubunz in Eastern Kasai (DRC). Lives and works in Kinshasa.

Raymond Tsham Mateng graduated from the Kinshasa Academy of Fine Arts in 1989. This unique artist uses ballpoint pens to create his artworks. Tsham uses a simple black Bic to draw masks and statuettes from Congo and elsewhere on drawing paper; with most of his artworks containing a cornucopia of these images. Why does he depict indigenous arts? “Because they are the best of what Africa has to offer the world!” Having exclusively used black ballpoint pens for over 20 years, Tsham has recently introduced colour into his works, or rather he has re-introduced it, as he utilized mixed techniques right at the start of his career. Watercolours and crayons now tint the backgrounds or highlight figures.

Tsham is by nature discrete and meticulous. He does not often leave his studio but nevertheless is open to others and the world at large. The news inspires his work and he always has his radio tuned to an international station. Now and then this tireless worker allows himself a moment of relaxation and indulges in the pleasures of painting. His canvases reveal a surprising audacity. However, Tsham truly excels when drawing and depicting African statutes. His work is beyond compare and is both aesthetic and meaningful, celebrating the past and the present.

> CV

Tsham: Photo album

Interview: Tsham in his studio in Kinshasa | June 2015

Work review: Les demoiselles du Congo, Tsham, 2015 

The women depicted in Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon were prostitutes. The Picasso work has been hailed as the first prototype of Cubist deconstruction. It foreshadows Cubism’s alternative perspective. 

To Picasso, a prostitute was a “deconstructed person.” Primitive art was the visual equivalent of a prostitute. He famously proclaimed “L'art nègre? Connais pas!” all the while visiting and studying works of African Art at the Musee de l’Homme. His denial is problematic as he must have been infused by the powerful images of African Art. The iconography of the prostitute and the primitive sculpture are therefore emblematic of his early conceptualization of Cubism. They are of paramount symbolic importance in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

Tsham uses masks or statuary from the Congo in direct confrontation to Picasso. The pieces are (left to right):

**Luba female figure with scarifaction
**Chokwe mask. Mwana pwo mask with bikini
**Luba-Hemba mask-pregnant with necklace
**Basikasingo sculpture with pinup body
**Pende mask with smirk
**Congo cowries, often used in Kuba art and, at times, as currency
**Stylized Kuba rafia as background?

In contrast to the social construct of Picasso’s lawless prostitute, each Congo figure is the embodiment of a powerful matrilineal heritage. The refined Kuba-like raffia matrix makes up a large part of the work's background. As the Kuba are a royal heritage, Tsham's use of this pattern is an acknowledgment of rule, order, and authority. 

In contrast to Picasso’s denial of an African Art influence, Tsham’s usage of iconic masks and figurines undeniably asserts the African influence.

In denial of Picasso’s claim to have heralded in Cubism, Tsham claims that the African aesthetic is the Cubistic prototype. It is not Picasso or Iberian art as Picasso later claimed.

Through Tsham’s depiction of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon as African matriarchal sculpture he forces us to acknowledge the forces of Picasso’s inspiration. Until that time, the West’s marginalization of African Art was certainly a form of denigration.

JC Biebuyck, MD 
The Biebuyck Family Collection