In Woyo country (what is now known as the northern Angolan province of Cabinda), it is common practice to charge objects with supernatural forces in order to help solve issues. These objects, or fetishes, were often used to do things like take care of the sick. Both Fwambasi and Ngolowa, belong to the artist’s New Fetish series in which he proclaims himself as a modern-day Nganga, or healer. His mission: to sound the alarm on our modern-day problems and obsessions. The artist creates new fetishes, through which we can reflect, heal and ward off these harmful concepts.
In Fwambasi, the artist places a traditional fetish figure, which is believed to be able to cure all illnesses, in the centre of the composition surrounded by various modern medicines. These medicines, which despite helping to cure one’s illness, do not guarantee survival. Here the artist comments on the importance of combining both traditional and modern forces in order to perfect the healing process.
Trigo Piula lives and works in Brazzaville, a city historically known as the stronghold of African Gaullism and the capital of Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Africa. In Ngolowa, Piula explores the history of decolonization, paying tribute to Charles de Gaulle, Félix Éboué and the Senegalese Tirailleurs, a term used to refer to a branch of the French army composed of soldiers recruited from African colonies.
The title Ngolowa is a play on words. In the Congo, the word Ngolowa means ‘to be strong’ but the word also bears a phonetical resemblance to Gaullois and de Gaulle, the man whom the artist believes was central to the fight for a decolonized Africa. Piula places de Gaulle’s head onto a limbless marble torso, held up by African hands. With no arms and no legs, de Gaulle relies on the support of the African people. In the background, the artist depicts his version of the famous painting by French painter Eugène Delacroix, La Liberté guidant le peuple. In Piula’s version—set against the red, white and blue of the French flag—a group of indigenous Congolese move across the canvas, proudly hoisting the flag of the Republic of the Congo.
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