Joseph Kusendila at Essex Street

Artist: Joseph Kusendila

Exhibition title: La loutre

Venue: Essex Street, New York, US

Date: October 22 – December 5, 2021

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Essex Street, New York

Maxwell Graham/Essex Street is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in the United States of Joseph Kusendila.

La loutre is the title of a novel Joseph Kusendila has been writing for many years.
La loutre means The otter.

Most of the artworks in the exhibition were made in Kasavubu, a vibrant neighborhood in Kinshasa, the most populous city in Africa and the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nine photographs were taken just before the Congolese Independence Day celebrations. Those days at certain times in certain neighborhoods there are blackouts. Around those blackouts there are both rumours and contrary government justifications ranging from heavy rains to low water to other complexities.

Two wooden vitrines were made in the likeness of those used in markets to sell jewelry. Such jewelry is mostly silver and comes from western African countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria. These two vitrines have no jewelry inside them.

Five books have on their cover a golden bell with figures of jaguar -men made around 900-1600 AD by the Chiriquí people of Panama. This is an American treasure. Inside the book are 1000 drawings of indigenous jewels from western Africa and taken from the La bijouterie indigène en Afrique occidentale in Journal de la Société des Africanistes, published in 1931. Each of the five books is unique.

There are two Congolese newspapers, La Percée and POST.

The word brother is the first work in the exhibition. It can be seen from the outside but is on the inside.

In 1985 Joseph Kusendila was born in Belgium where he continues to live and work. Since 2019, with Monica Gallab, he has run the project space Alma Sarif. Kusendila has had solo exhibitions at Kantine, Brussels in 2020 and Komplot, Brussels in 2018. He received a degree in filmmaking from the Institut National des Arts du Spectacle et des Techniques de Diffusion (INSAS), Brussels, Belgium, in 2014.