b. 1980 Kinshasa, DR Congo, currently lives and works in Cape Town
Patrick Bongoy’s sculptural works use discarded materials, such as rubber and industrial packaging, to comment on the degradation of society and its natural resources.
Where Are We? Where Are We Going?
In DRC, ongoing conflicts and pollution caused by industries have poisoned and eroded the environment. This degradation has been compounded by the natural disasters induced by climate change. Heavy rainfall and erosion caused by deforestation have caused the earth to split, to cave in and be stripped of its resources and resilience.
Communities have again and again been forced to move to new ground. Many of them hoping for new beginnings, a chance to rebuild their lives and find new ways to sustain themselves. However, the rawness of this new soil and the absence of a viable economy makes it impossible for them to meet their aspirations of progress, as it impacts their capacity to build a foundation for the next generations to thrive.
Installation View, 2016
The Congolese government tasked with the infrastructural development and protecting its people has exacerbated the situation through the inadequate development of local resources and the lack of support systems for the people affected by disasters. They have focussed primarily on their own economic enrichment, only sporadically attempting to pacify people’s discontent through superficial interventions, never offering long term solutions.
A steady decline over the last 30 to 40 years has worsened access to progress particularly with regards to education. After achieving basic school education often against the odds and with minimal employment opportunities (let alone opportunities for further education and travel) many young people live with a constant sense of desperation. Their hopes of ensuring productive futures are rapidly drained away.
This social milieu dilutes any level of activism and solidarity among people. An empty stomach or a family in desperate need takes precedence over the time and energy needed to investment in social transformation, while the everpresent threat of police violence quells the last thoughts of civil action through protest.
People are driven to live by animal instincts doing whatever is necessary to get through each day. Whether resorting to self-destruction such as selling their own bodies or numbing themselves through substance abuse, people are desperate to quell the ache of both the literal and figurative hunger. Others weighted by hopelessness sink into apathy and melancholy.
In this bleak context, many people choose to invest their last resources in the Church. They are easy prey for evangelical missions canvassing to grow their congregation for economic gain and social status rather than the true salvation of “lost souls”. Evangelism has also led to domestic conflicts, as scarce family resources are redirected by the fervent converts to the Church. Newly “brainwashed” by charismatic pastors and religious communities, they blindly follow this so-called guidance regardless of whether it causes great pain or harm to themselves and their kin. Instead of strengthening the social fabric of society, these Churches capitalise on the profit they can make off the poor believers, manipulating them through false prophecies and cultivating a doomsday mentality, making the Church the last hope for salvation.
These social concerns have inspired the work you see in this exhibition. Where Are We? Where Are We Going? is a reflection and contemplation on the unbalanced status quo of the Congo where the power struggle between the government and the people is the sad reality. This body of work poses the question where to from here? What will lead to a true awakening, a healing of consciousness that will liberate the people from those who exploit their vulnerability? What will it take to ignite their own awareness of the choices that lead nowhere and keep them trapped in victimhood? – Patrick Bongoy, 2017
Text edited by Malika Lueen Ndlovu