In partnership with FSU’s Winthrop King Institute, MoFA is delighted to be hosting an installation of original comic book drawings by the celebrated Congolese artist Pat Masioni. The exhibition presents illustrations from three projects: Vertigo Comic’s Unknown Soldier; Living Level 3, a graphic novel series sponsored by the World Food Programme; and UFFO Somali, a publication of the London-based nonprofit PositiveNegatives. On display are a suite of original black and white storyboard drawings together with examples of the published comics.
Pat Masioni was born in Mikuzi, in the region Bas-Congo in 1961. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa. He began his career as a professional illustrator in Democratic Republic of Congo, where his books sold more than 250,000 copies. Since moving to France in 2002, in addition to illustrating for popular titles by Dark Horse and DC Comics, he has published graphic novels on the war in Rwanda, contributed art work to humanitarian educational initiatives by the International Red Cross and UNICEF, and drawn for “Samba Diallo,” a comic published in the magazine Planète jeunes.
This autobiographical statement appeared in Unknown Soldier #13, dated October 28, 2009.
My name is Patrice Masioni Makamba. I am Congolese, born in Mikuzi, Bandundu province in the early 1960s, to the Mbala tribe. I do not exactly know when I first started drawing – from the moment I could hold a pen, I imagine. I published my first drawing at 14, supported and recognized by two Spanish priests who helped my family financially support my studies. Through their grace I learned painting, ceramics, and sculpture in Kinshasa and eventually created a ceramic bas-relief for the cathedral in anticipation of the first visit by Pope Jean Paul II there. These priests, they gave me the tools I needed to live, and I am deeply in their debt for this. It was not long before I was a professional illustrator and doing quite well for myself. My books were big sellers, and my name was not unknown. Mostly I worked on religious books, but I also published political cartoons in newspapers. Art had set me free from poverty and obscurity, but it was not long before it also brought me trouble. Over the course of my life as an artist in Kinshasa, DRC I was arrested on multiple occasions, sometimes by child soldiers. I have been beaten for my drawings. And yet, still, others suffered worse. People disappeared. People died. I have seen things no one should see, things I will never forget. In 2002, after receiving death threats from people with the will and power to back them, I – literally overnight – fled for France and began the hard path of the political refugee. There was no time to consider this decision. It was extremely difficult to start over in another country. My past, my family, my friends, my home and money, they were all gone. Over time I rebuilt a reputation as an illustrator in France, found an apartment and had my family join me, but it wasn’t easy. The culture here is very different from my own (the French sense of humor is a mystery to me), the struggle to assimilate is constant and it reminds me of how much I miss my home. I very much look forward to becoming a French Citizen so that I may return to DRC to visit, safe and free. I have been very happy to be working on Unknown Soldier. I can feel from inside the story. Sometimes, it reminds me of my past, and true situations I have seen with my own eyes. Joshua Dysart’s script depicts a notable reality, and I feel free and expressive in drawing them, all while adding a touch of African style to the endeavor. I can only hope that American audiences come to care for the truths these stories speak to.
For more information about Pat Masioni, African comics, and political cartooning in Africa:
Pat Masioni’s Blog (Le Blog de Pat Masioni): http://patmasioni.canalblog.com/
Africa Comics: http://www.africacomics.net/
Afropolitan Comics: https://www.afropolitancomics.com/en
Planetary Republic of Comics: https://professorlatinx.osu.edu/planetary-republic-of-comics/
Michelle Bumatay, FSU Assistant Professor of French specializing in sub-Saharan African and diasporic literature and cultural production, including bandes dessinées (French-language graphic novels known in French as BD) by cartoonists from Africa and Europe: https://mbumatay.com/
For more information about the Winthrop-King Institute’s Fall 2020 Global Africas Conference: Global Africas: Congolese Literature, Music, and Art in the 21st Century.
Pat Masioni Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_8BI2OhuJA
Video Interview with Pat Masioni: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m64QeWoQAAg