featuring — the creative home of artist Kito Mbiango
photography — Emmanuel Afolabi
My loft is my own little bohemian microcosm. I was first drawn to this industrial space because of its high ceilings and white brick walls against which I could create new pieces. Today the space it is filled with fragments of my universe – an ancient Ethiopian chair, a vintage surfboard, a set of Burmese buddhas and portraits of my children as babies. My home is usually dimly lit with candles, for in the darkness I find the light of my imagination. I love observing the way the sunlight sweeps across my canvases just before sunset, reflecting little mother of pearl discs I’ve painted in. It is in this nest where I find refuge and am able to escape the chaos of the city.
Inspiration — My home is a reflection of my databank of over 10,000 images, which convey three different themes: The connectedness of diverse peoples through a common humanity, the questions about cultural values and imperialist ideas and the collective yearning for transcendence. I would like someone entering my space to feel like I do when I create - traveling in a dreamlike state across cultures, time and memory. One participates in my narratives via transferred early 19th and 20th century portraits of people from every continent loosely organized amid images of diverse flora, fauna, fabric and cultural signifiers. Similarly in my home, I love the juxtaposition of modern design like my worn Corbusier armchair next to rare African headrest demonstrating the fluidity of culture.
Nostalgia — The photos and objects in my home are pieces of a story coming together across continents to form the tapestry of my life. Photos and images capture the essence of people and have a vibrational quality to me much like music does. Artists are translators of humanity for their art is often a reflection of consciousness. Images from the past are like totems or protectors and whenever objects or paintings are removed from my home, I almost mourn their absence as they are filled with the memories of our ancestors.
My most cherished pieces include a signed Bruce Weber photograph and a ceremonial drum from the Kuba tribe that was given to me by my grandmother. She received it from a missionary in the Congo in the 1940s. This drum to me exemplifies the physicality and rhythm of our connectedness. My Belgian grandmother was a matriarch in our family with a profound sensitivity to culture. As a child she gave me an appreciation for her passions like ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging but also embracing my Congolese father’s roots when interracial couples were a rarity. Her gift today still fills me with nostalgia for my father’s native Congo.
Influence — I have hundreds of books but some of the most influential have been Gerhard Richter’s “A Life in Painting.” He is a master unlike any other ranging from abstract to figurative work and inspires me to keep exploring the limits of my art. One of my most cherished books is an obscure one, given to me by my parents on my 13th birthday with a signed inscription. Its title is Johari, which means ‘jewel’ in Swahili and it was likely one of perhaps 50 books printed on the minerals of the Congo. It contains stunning photographs and numerous scientific images of minerals. At the time, I was part of a mineral club with my grandmother and we would go on excursions with archeologists and to trade fairs where we met with mineral experts. It encouraged me to continue to explore the world.
I also have a reverence for tribal and indigenous communities and books, such as the one entitled Statuaire Dogon provide me with the basis to make visual linkages between the art and civilizations of the Dogon tribes in Mali and the great civilizations of Egypt for example. These books have influenced my work and shaped some of the themes directly related to political and social African history. In some of my works on paper, a noble female muse appears as silent witness to the exploitation of natural resources and the loss of innocence and native cultures. Many of my titles are also inspired by poets such as Rumi and from the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Joseph Campbell.
Music — Music is an important part of my creative flow and symphonies dance in circles in my mind. I love classical music such as Bach but also gravitate toward experimental music as well. There are pieces I can listen to over and over such as Glen Gould’s Goldberg variations. Recently I’ve discovered a contemporary composer named Max Richter who preoccupies himself with the link between music and consciousness. He uses music to play with identity, memory and repetition which resonates and helps give rise to some of new work. I also love the great jazz classics such as Miles Davis and Nina Simone and am fond of some of these talented emerging DJs who can marry amazing sounds with electronic beats.