The keyword of Mfumu’eto the First over the next decade: Ko Siemisa

An Essay by Bibish Marie-Louise Mumbu translated by Melissa CC Man

October 2009

It is a Lingala word which means “adding a grain of salt” to a situation or a conversation. This is what Mfumu’eto the first decided to do his work on as from this year. The insinuation that follows is that he seems to have been one of the first “painters-cartoonists-calligraphers” from the Democratic Congo. Such a description would perhaps never strike as fair!

“Ko Siemisa”

All this had to do with the birth of his son this year. Mfumu’eto is a father, for the second time in his life, to a boy with a 22 year age difference from his elder sister, Princesse d’ Or (Golden Princess). However,the small one, does not have a name. Or rather, his father made me promise not to expose him before the Bantu ceremony planned, for this reason, around the end of June. Solitary and withdrawn into himself according to some, Mfumu’eto does not hesitate for one second to trust me with his work and his life which remains intimately linked. His son, born 3 months ago, does not have a name. The reason is quite simple. Weighing 1,800 kg at birth, the small one was immediately sent to the paediatrics emergency room. Thus, giving him a name was not his parents’ concern at that moment. But the family and the nurses started chatting. They were speaking to whoever wanted to hear about “the child with no name”. Our painter-cartoonist-calligrapher then decides to “Ko Siemisa” the case while hiding from the world the child and his name. They’ve only seen up to this day his sister, his mother, his father and the friend who remains “hidden”. He is like this our Mfumu’eto. He always merges his private life and his work. Being the artist, he has a reason for always wanting to represent his fantasies, his dreams, his fears, his aspirations: “I needed a break to come see my son into the world and capture impressions, sounds, smells and there, now I revive myself.”

The abundance and the wealth of his work exhibits the vitality of a creation whose creator’s practice focuses on the process of exchange and cross-fertilization. One word to describe his work and his life: Interruptions. Some doubts? He sees the day after a mystical ceremony around the grave of a deceased uncle who had cast a spell on his mother. He comes into the world after 5 girls died before the age of 24 months. He goes by the name Jaspe Saphir. He single-handedly raises his only daughter at the time, Princesse d’Or, to whom he devoted all his time and energy. The arrival of his son, as he says himself, interrupts his concept of art. He is afraid of not having time for him, unlike Princesse d’Or. This is why he dedicates all his work to him, meaning, the evolution of the artist painter-cartoonist-calligrapher of the next 18 years. The small one will then have the age of reason and choice. This exhibition, in honour of the son, after having reached its peak, will be the most successful. Father Mfumu’eto the First gives himself 18 beautiful years to prepare the content.

“Ko Siemisa”

It’s true that “The life and career of Mfumu’eto come together in a real production that marks legends and mystery” (Les Carnets de la Création, Papa Mfumu’eto 1er, Editions de l’oeil, April 2002). These disruptions of his existence will from now on be known as “Siemisa” so that the whole world will know them. Is he an artist of silence or a silent artist? The question remains…

These disruptions of his existence will from now on be known as “Siemisa” so that the whole world will know them. Is he an artist of silence or a silent artist? The question remains…

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