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ISSN: 1570-0178

Volume 12, Issue 1 (6 October 2009)

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Conversations about Katanga Genre Painting in the 1970s

transcribed, translated, and annotated by

Johannes Fabian

University of Amsterdam

Amsterdam School for Social Science Research
University of Amsterdam
Kloveniersburgwal 48
1012 CX Amsterdam
The Netherlands



Text One

Text Two

Text Three

Text Four

Text Five

Text Six

Text Seven

Text Eight

Text Nine




Shaba Genre Painting was a discovery, not a planned project. Research was carried out in 1973-74 by Johannes Fabian and Ilona Szombati and results were published a few years later (Ilona Szombati-Fabian and Johannes Fabian 1976, Johannes Fabian and Ilona Szombati-Fabian 1980). In these papers, conversations with popular painters in Kolwezi and Lubumbashi were mined for information (also for J. Fabian’s project on “Language and Labor,” see Archives of Popular Swahili, Vol. 10) but only in the form of notes made while listening to the recordings. Here I present them as texts transcribed, translated, and annotated from digitalized copies of the original tapes. It is important to note that the transcripts and translations were not made in the chronological order in which they are now presented. This accounts for some repetitiveness and redundancy in the notes. Limitations of time and energy resulted in less than perfect editing. Ilona Szombati (‘I:” in the transcripts) was present during and participated in several conversations.

Note that, following criteria that guided us in the seventies, two of the artists represented here (Kanyemba and Kabinda) would not count, or think of themselves, as genre painters. However, the conversations with them both provide valuable background information, especially to links between colonial academic and post-colonial popular painting. For the same reason I hope to add to this corpus texts of exchanges with Pilipili and Mwenze, two prominent members of the “Académie d'Art Populaire d’Elisabethville,” known as “Le Hangar,” a private art school founded by Pierre Romain-Desfossés.

A chronology of recordings

texts included in this volume are marked in bold face
Pilipili 14. 11. 1972, 21. 11. 1972
Mwenze 8. 1. 1973
Kanyemba 25. 4. 1973/ Text One
Kasongo&Kabinda 17. 5. 1973 (mamba muntu)/ Text Two
Kabinda 17. 5. 1973
Kabinda, Kabeya a.o. 25. 11. 1973
Kapenda & Nkulu 5. 12. 1973
Beya Ilunga & Luaba Tshibinguvu 9. 12. 1973 / Text Three
Tshibumba, 16. 12. 1973/ Text Four
Ndaie 2. 1. 1974/ Text Five
Mutombo 10. 2. 1974/ Text Six
Matchika 10. 3. 1974 / Text Seven
Muteb Kabash 10. 3. 1974/ Text Eight
Kakudje 22. 8. 1974 (PAS identification test, Text 79 transcribed)
Mode Muntu 31. 8. 1974
Laskas 20. 10. 1974/ Text Nine
Kabwika 25. 10. 1974
Kabwika & Tshibumba 25. 10. 1974
Mwenze 25. 10. 1974


Fabian, Johannes, and Ilona Szombati-Fabian. (1980). Folk Art from an Anthropological Perspective. In: Ian M.G. Quimby and Scott T. Swank (eds.), Perspectives on American Folk Art. New York: Norton, pp. 247 292. [download pdf]

, Ilona, and Johannes Fabian. (1976). Art, History and Society: Popular Painting in Shaba, Zaire. Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication 3:1-21. [download pdf]


[Text One]

[Text Two]

[Text Three]

[Text Four]

[Text Five]

[Text Six]

[Text Seven]

[Text Eight]

[Text Nine]

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© Johannes Fabian
The URL of this page is:
Publication date: 6 October 2009
Updated: 24 December 2009 (hyperlinks to Texts 4-9 added)
Updated: 22 September 2011 (hyperlinks to pdf's of Fabian & Szombati-Fabian 1980 and Szombati-Fabian & Fabian 1976 added)