In this essay we have followed the historic path of Mobutu as drawn by genre artist Sapin Makengele. We have discussed his ascension to power and the way he used Authenticité and Mobutisme to govern the Congo, then named Zaïre. To get an idea of the African experience of the Mobutu regime, we have looked at and discussed popular art by Congolese men. Of course, it is worth baring in mind that art is subjective. This means that we, as two western students who have not experienced nor witnessed the Mobutu regime might interpret the art differently than a Congolese person would or than the artist intended.
The analyses of the different artist’s works have shown us that there the Mobutu regime has not been experienced similarly by everyone. While Sapin Makengele depicts Mobutu as someone who reigned in terror, Yekima offers a more Nostalgic look on Mobutu’s era. Since the time of Tshibumba if not earlier, Congolese artists have played an important role as a national memory, receiving and transmitting the past to new generations. Many of the young people who voted in the Congo’s recent elections were not even born when Mobutu fell from power, which makes the role of artist-historians all the more important. They will surely continue to play a major role in the on-going national reckoning with Mobutu’s troubled and complex legacy.
Florian Janyszek and Oisín O’Driscoll.