Jean Depara: chronicler of Kinshasa nightlife
Posted: February 16, 2016 Filed under: IMAGES | Tags: African photographers: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Black History Month
Jean Depara_self-portrait taken in 1975
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Lemvo Jean Abou Bakar Depara
(born 1928, Angola – died 1997, Kinshasa, DRC)
Jean Depara became a photographer almost by accident. Wishing to document his wedding in 1950 he bought a small Adox camera— and after that he never lacked curiosity or fresh subject matter for his “eye”. He put down roots in Kinshasa in 1951, and at first combined part-time photography with a variety of other jobs: repairing bicycles and cameras, and dealing in scrap metal. In 1954 a Zairian singer invited him to become his official photographer, launching Depara’s career as a chronicler of Kinshasa social life in the decades when the dance music of rumba and cha-cha characterized the city’s “rhythm”. He set up a studio under the name Jean “Whisky” Depara, spending days and nights in the bars and nightclubs of Kinshasa: the Afro Mogenbo, the Champs-Elysées, the Djambo Djambu, the Oui, the Fifi, and the Show Boat. Intrigued as he was by the “night owl” crowd, Depara with his camera flash made a visual record of a Congo that existed outside of conventional social codes of the day.
Depara died leaving an archive of hundreds of untitled black and white negatives. With permission from the artist’s family, his friend Oscar Mbemba titled many of Depara’s photographs in the spirit of the bygone era.
In front of the “dancing bar”
Women enjoying an outing
Off-duty soldiers on bikes
A Kinshasa family
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