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“One of the effects of the Congo Civil war meant a lack of electricity. This led to the necessity of oil lanterns. Initially, as a child, I repaired lanterns for the neighborhood as a means of income. As I began developing artistically, I started collecting old lanterns and other objects from the garbage, deconstructing, and reconstructing them into creatures to represent human beings and personal experiences. What started off as a necessity of life became my inspiration and a form of artistic expression for me.

Masela Nkolo is a multidisciplinary artist who resides in Atlanta. He was born in Kinshasa, Congo where he graduated in fine arts with an emphasis in large-scale sculpture from the academy of fine arts. After failing his first year in art college in the course of sculpting allowed him to confront his identity as a Congolese and to reap the benefits of his heritage. Afterwards, Masela quickly joined his friends in an art movement in the streets of Kinshasa. Together they called their movement “Neo-Ngongism.” They started out exhibiting in the streets with the goal of awakening the consciences of the population through the arts. His work has previously been exhibited on display at various galleries such as Johnson Lowe gallery, Moca, GA; the Mint Museum, NC and Artfields, SC. In 2022 Masela was awarded a juror's choice at MOCA GA in the biennial. Most recently he received distinguished awards such as the Artfields category award solo Exhibition. 


My recent work involves transforming oil lanterns, doors, cabinet doors, screwdrivers, and other used random objects. With these materials, I deconstruct and reconstruct them into creatures. These creatures represent the past and contemporary identity of Congo, my motherland, as seen through my personal experiences and memories. My representations of the creations incite an appreciation of self and also a way of relearning to celebrate ourselves.


 My process of using screwdrivers is inspired by Kongo" Yombe" practice called “Bibaaku,” which is the action of inserting nails or pieces of metal into a Nkisi. A Nkisi is a Congolese statute that is used to bind an agreement, keep away malevolent spirits, drive away people intent on doing harm, or prevent or cure illnesses. With the Nkisi nails indicating the number of times the sculpture was ritually activated.


The screwdrivers which I used as a child during the civil war as a means of protection, are now disconnected from their primordial use as a weapon. Being used within another context, the efficacy of the screwdrivers are for the aesthetic, philosophical and emotional dimension on my masks.  In the same way the nails are inserted into the Nkisi, the welded screwdrivers on my masks indicate the number of times my sculptures are ritually activated positivity rather than violence and its forms within my community.


When I create sculptures and installations, my goal is to manifest these ancestral characteristics so that they can hopefully become visible within our communities and our world. My passionate desire is to create artworks that can be a source of excitement for one and escape for another.

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