In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Katanga region has several artists whose job is to beat copper in the oven to make decorative paintings or monuments. Among the big names in this rich mining region are the famous Chenge Baruti and Gabriel Kalumba, whose works have toured the world. Leaders in the brass drum profession who have passed on their knowledge to the younger generation. Due to a lack of education, the profession of brass drummer is passed from father to son. Report in Lubumbashi by Denise Maheho.
Master Ntumba, a brass drummer, lives in the popular Kalebuka district of Lubumbashi. This 1.70 m man spends time drawing on a carbon plate and then making lines with a copper chisel. It specializes in the manufacture of paintings for interior decoration of wall decorations. “My paintings touch on different themes. Here, the woman, the family, where the traditional market, there again, the landscape … I participated in several exhibitions, for example in Burkina Faso at the international craft fair where we were with the late master Liyolo. Then I’m out in Mali, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa. ”
An old profession that no longer attracts many young people. Master Ntumba still tries to share his passion without counting. After training about twenty young people in the neighborhood, including his eldest son, it is now to the youngest of nine years, Dany Kabamba, that he conveys his knowledge. “I watch Dad when he works and I learn. The hardest part of this trade is hitting copper, especially when it’s corrugated cardboard. It must be heated to more than 100 degrees and then flattened with a hammer. I plan to one day open my own workshop. ”
A little further, in the city of Kenya, in a blue jumpsuit, Didier Madi also makes copper paintings. He learned it from Master Ntumba more than 20 years ago. “The first step, I draw on paper. Then I trace the drawing on a sheet of copper using carbon paper. Then I use these small chisels to trace and resume the drawing. What remains is to heat the plate on coal to make it flexible and to be able to create reliefs. Finally, I set the colors, black and red. “
Today, these battered copper enthusiasts fear for the future of their profession. There are no longer many buyers and the raw material is scarce. Mwembia, another artist: “To prepare the next generation, you must have the raw material. But the company LATRECA, which is here, the first rolling mills in Africa, which supplied us with light copper sheets, no longer produce. We fell back on copper sheets recovering from the roofs of the houses. Today, even these restored sheets can not be found, what should I do? “
While Katanga produces more than one million tonnes of copper, several copper drum workshops in Lubumbashi are closing, as all production is intended for export.