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The elder statesman of the Congolese popular painters is a master of the art of depicting life in DR Congo. Sapeurs, politicians, revellers, sex workers, and prophets are all sketched in turn. And Chéri Chérin is also happy to offer us a take on international affairs.

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© P. Daubert 2011

Born in Kinshasa (DRC) in 1955. Lives in Kinshasa.

 Chéri Chérin, whose real name is Joseph Kinkonda, is one of the leading figures of the Congolese popular art movement. Having experienced the typical start-of-career ups and downs, which led him to take orders for posters and adverts, Chéri Chérin has developed his own narrative figure painting style based on themes from Congolese society. The famous SAPE has a special place in his work, especially as he himself was one of the pioneers of the SAPE movement (Society of Fun lovers and Elegant People, whose members love to wear expensive labels), which has now become a key part of Congolese identity.

Chéri Chérin remained in the shadow of Moke and Chéri Samba for a long time but his involvement in the Africa Remix exhibition in 2005 enabled him to gain recognition. The key to his success, apart from the liveliness of his compositions and his easy brushstrokes, is having looked outside Congolese society in order to depict international subjects with the same ironic, comical or darkly humorous verve that he uses when painting human relationships on the street corner. Chéri Chérin offers us an African take on international current affairs. We may sometimes be surprised by his work, but that’s all for the better, as it never bores! His most representative artworks were on display at the Beauté Congo-Congo Kitoko exhibition at the Fondation Cartier (Paris, July 2015-January 2016).

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