Meschack Kadima’s aim is to give voice to the voiceless. It’s a real challenge for the young illustrator in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, living in a society he feels is too repressed to speak out about the troubling political situation.
By Gaïus Kowene, Goma
Kadima uses a pencil, ordinary and coloured, to put his thoughts down on paper. The war and the suppression of freedom of expression it has brought with it supply plenty of artistic fodder. And, when Kadima saw two deaf people using sign language, he realised he could reach out to the world with his art. Inspired by how the deaf communicated without using spoken words, he decided to try and express the collective emotions of people around him.
“I noticed that here, in the east where all sorts of crimes are committed, there are many mute people who cannot express what they feel,” the artist explains, referring to those who are silenced for political reasons. “As their brother, I decided to speak on their behalf.” Kadima tries to do just that through his drawings, which he publishes on Facebook and occasionally makes on commission.
Among Kadima’s signature drawings is that of a man’s head, accented in the colours of the DRC flag. His face is filled in with pencil and a red stream flows down its left side.
“It’s the face of an injured Congolese man who cries every day,” says the Goma-based artist. “He fears that speaking the truth will get him killed. That’s why the truth is written on his face – so anyone who sees him knows what’s going on in his country.”
The face symbolises the DRC. The left eye crying blood represents those who have died in the east of the country. The other eye, crying normal tears, represents those who mourn in its western region.
In another drawing, Kadima addresses the underdevelopment of the continent as a whole. The young artist turns the map of Africa into the head of a woman. Her eyes closed, she is contemplative, if not downtrodden. She wears the Congolese flag as a headscarf.
About this piece, Kadima says: “The Bible says that he who finds a wife finds happiness. But if a man finds a woman who has been raped, he will never be happy. And Africa will continue to cry because the DRC is its heart. As long as Congolese women continue to be raped, the DRC and Africa will not prosper.”
Despite his sombre drawings, the artist remains optimistic about his country’s future. “We are still hopeful that in 20 years, there will be some change. The Congolese people are waking up. If we become more socially conscious, there will be no more conflict and the DRC will become the world’s El Dorado in 20 years,” he predicts.
Kadima encourages his peers to work and, in so doing, to be patriotic. “We inherited a country in ruins from our grandparents,” he says. “It is up to us to rebuild it. Let’s step up; let’s love our country and work for it.”