Born 1928, Kboklolo, Angola
Died 1997, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Depara came to photography almost by accident. To record his wedding in 1950 he bought himself a small Adox cameraafter which he never ceased to seek out new subjects for his lens. Settling in Kinshasa in 1951, Depara at first combined his photography with various small jobs: repairing bicycles and cameras, dealing in scrap metal. In 1954 the celebrated Zairian singer Franco invited him to become his official photographer, launching Deparas career as a chronicler of Kinshasa social life in the era when the Rumba and the Cha Cha defined the citys rhythm. He set up a studio under the name Jean Whisky Depara and spent his days in bars like the Kwist, the OK Bar, or the Sarma Congo. At night he hung out at such clubs as the Afro Mogenbo, the Champs-Elysées, the Djambo Djambu, the Oui, the Fifi, the Show Boat. Night owls particularly fascinated him and with his flash Depara captured an Africa stripped of conventional social codes. Interracial couples, hipsters, and those who in imitation of James Dean chose to Live fast, die young became both his subjects and his clients.
Among Deparas themes in his photographs are the Miziki who have such a powerful role in Kinshasa society. These associations of women were rooted in pre-independence traditions, and a Moziki (singular form of Miziki) could act as a banker within her social circle. In the 1950s and 1960s, Miziki associations took such names as La Pause and La Mode, and commissioned famous bands to compose songs for their annual events.
Depara died leaving his archive of hundreds negatives untitled; with the permission of the artists family, his close friend Oscar Mbemba has titled the works in the spirit of this era.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
Centre de la Photographie
Geneva - Switzerland
4th Meeting for African Photography
Noorderlicht 2000 photofestival,
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Luminós/C/ity.Ordinary Joy: From the Pigozzi Contemporary African Art Collection, Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Feb 6 - Apr 24 2011
Magasin Grenoble, France
Oct 8 - Oct 25 2010
Marrakech Art Fair, Marrakech
12 Oct - 18 Feb 2007
Arts of Africa
Monaco - France
African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Houston - USA
E la Nave Va « Jours tranquilles à Kinshasa »
Geneva - Switzerland
Africa : Past-Present
Seydou Keita, P.K. Apagya, Depara, C.A. Azaglo and Ojeikere
Fifty One Fine Art Photography
Antwerp - Belgium
1998 - 1999
Eye Africa : African photography 1840-1998
Festival of African photography
Cape Town South Africa
Exhibition catalogue. Published by TF Editores & FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao Museum.
African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Merrell.
Mémoires Intimes d'un Nouveau Millénaire - Intimates Memories of the New
(4ème Rencontres de la Photographie africaine, Bamako 2001).
Edited by Eric Koehler.
Noorderlicht 2000 photofestival.
Fries Museum, exhibition catalogue, Depara p.25-32.
" L'Eveil d'un regard " Depara
Anthologie de la Photographie Africaine et de l'Océan Indien.
XIXe & XXe Siècles. Texts in French.
Editions : Revue Noire, France.