“Trash Mask” Portraits Highlight the Mineral-Garbage Exploitation Cycle of the Congolese People

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New Joshua Tree Gallery of Contemporary Art Exhibition Raises Awareness and Support 

JOSHUA TREE, Calif., May 31, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The Joshua Tree Gallery of Contemporary Art’s (JT-GOCA) new exhibition, THROUGH THEIR EYES, is a solo exhibition featuring the extraordinary photographic art of Stephan Gladieu—and it’s literally helping to support a collective of about thirty Congolese artists whose goal includes bringing awareness to the global exploitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Gladieu’s vibrant portrait series, Homo Detritus (trash human), captures the members of the art collective, Ndaku, ya la vie est belles,” as they don intricate costume masks created from the western-world garbage polluting the streets of their capitol city, Kinshasa. Gladieu photographed the artists in their costumes in symbolic areas throughout the streets of Kinshasa to create this vivid series. Drawing parallels between modern eco-activism and ancestral nature-centric rituals in African cultures, the exhibition includes Gladieu’s new body of work, Egungun, capturing spectacular portraits of African Egun priests in their culturally-rich, full-body, ritual masks. All the portraits remain on exhibition at JT-GOCA through August 28, 2022—marking the first time that these works have been exhibited outside of Paris, France—as the gallery takes an affirmative stand against the shrouded continuation of the colonization of the Congo.

Stephan Gladieu, THE RUBBER MAN, 2021 included in the "Homo Detritus" series of works shown as part of the Joshua Tree Gallery of Contemporary Art's exhibition, THROUGH THEIR EYES. The Congolese artist collective member, Pape noir Kilomboshi, created this mask costume from the voluminous rubber trash dumped in the Limete industrial district in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Fine art print on Hahnemühle paper, exhibited at 80x100 cm.

Harnessing the direct and unadulterated essence of photographic art, THROUGH THEIR EYES acutely elevates awareness of the ongoing exploitation of the DRC and its native people. Laboring in abysmal conditions and for some of the lowest wages in the world, primarily courtesy of large multi-national corporations, residents of Kinshasa mine the rare minerals necessary for much of Asia’s and western countries’ consumer production. The result is a despoiling of the country’s wealth—both human labor and natural resources. Intensifying this exploitation, ironically, is the in vogue focus on climate change, as dominant corporations and wealthy countries rush to acquire the rare and valuable natural resources necessary to build the electric vehicles so prominent in many national environmental discussions. The exploitation continues full cycle as consumer waste resulting from the resultant consumer products returns to Kinshasa on barges of garbage that dump millions of tons of waste back into the DRC, furthering the environmental and human disaster. The exhibition curates the artwork to indelibly highlight this human and eco crisis so that the artwork creates a public awareness and opens a significant solution-minded discussion. 

Importantly, a portion of the profit from the sales of exhibited works featuring the artist collective will go to the Congolese artists themselves, removing at least one potential origin of exploitation. 

THROUGH THEIR EYES is completed with the addition of Gladieu’s contrasting portrait series, North Korea, that documents a different human exploitation; namely that of indoctrination. 

Following the gallery exhibition, the work is scheduled to be shown in multiple museum exhibitions in Europe within the next two years, and Homo Detritus is featured in the upcoming June 2022 edition of National Geographic magazine.

JT-GOCA is an innovative partnership between multi-national art gallery, ARTCO Gallery, and the Hi-Desert Cultural Center (HDCC), the arts organization for the greater Joshua Tree National Park region. The cutting-edge Joshua Tree Gallery of Contemporary Art is located at 58325 Highway 62 in Yucca Valley, just west of HDCC’s Joshua Tree arts complex. Visit www.jtgoca.com and www.artco-art.com for more information.

Media Contact:

Jarrod Radnich


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An installation view at the Joshua Tree Gallery of Contemporary Art featuring the "Homo Detritus" series of works by Stephan Gladieu as part of the THROUGH THEIR EYES exhibition.

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SOURCE Joshua Tree Gallery of Contemporary Art

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