Aza Mansongi’s Congolese background schooled her in classical, figurative realism. But her life experience growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area massively impacted by war and conflict, to her studies and current life in Douala in Cameroon and her innate positivity has given her artworks a unique ‘Aza’ style.
Whilst Aza could have been forgiven for creating artworks filled with angst and negativity this would have conflicted with the positive way in which she approaches life and all that she does.
Her work vibrates with the hope for and enjoyment of social cohesion, despite – or perhaps because of – the frenetic unpredictability of modern life. Life to her is a ‘celebration’. ‘Hope’, she says, is ‘all that matters’ and this is almost pulpable in her bright, happy, somewhat chaotically busy paintings.
Aza’s art doesn’t speak – it sings. It narrates the story of every day life in Africa, the meeting of the modern and the traditional worlds, the excitement and energy that lives and is celebrated by the people despite the many challenges that we face. Humanity persevering or rather thriving, despite hardship, strife and trauma.
Traditional African masks meet our pre-occupation with modern fashion, make-up, jewelry, digital technology and industrialization. Whispers of war are hinted at with depictions of weaponry, but these are never granted the focus of the piece and are simply an element that is part of daily life.
Her paintings are almost stylized and graphic in nature reminiscent of her predilection for and enjoyment of comics in her early years. Bright colours, frenetic energy and abstracted backgrounds paint a picture of society co-existing and thriving through their ‘togetherness’ or ‘interconnectedness’ rather than in isolation.
It is impossible however to speak about Aza’s practice without paying homage to the wonderful sense of humor that permeates and attracts collectors to her artworks. It is the power of this joy and celebration of life that defeats the vignettes of evil and the struggles of daily life that inspire collectors to welcome Aza’s work into their personal spaces.
Aza works across different mediums including painting, sculpture, installation and video. She has exhibited extensively in Africa and abroad. In 2017 she appointed The Melrose Gallery to represent her in South Africa. In 2008 she produced a monumental fresco (80 x 3 metres) with the 3 Kokoricos Collective and Belgian artist Arnaid Debal at the French Lycée in Kinshasha.
Aza lives and works in Douala in Cameroon.
Residence: Douala, Cameroon