Everard Read Gallery | Pasada by Thonton Kabeya
Everard Read Gallery is pleased to present Pasada by Thonton Kabeya. The Spanish word ‘Pasada’ means to pass or turn. In the context of rumba dancing, it is a movement where the leader moves to create a space for the follower to move into.
The history of the rumba dance begins in the ancient central African kingdom of Kongo where a dance called the "Nkumba" was performed, and this dance was taken across the Atlantic with the enslaved peopled of Western and Central Africa to North and South America, where the songs inspired jazz and the dance became known as the rumba. In the mid-1900s, this music and dance made its way back across the Atlantic through records and radio and it has since gained enormous popularity across central and southern Africa, each country with its own variations in music in dance styles. The Congolese rumba was recently added to UNESCO's intangible heritage list as "The rumba is considered an essential and representative part of the identity of Congolese people and its diaspora. It is perceived as a means of conveying the social and cultural values of the region and of promoting intergenerational and social cohesion and solidarity." - UNESCO, 2021.
The rumba is danced in bars and halls throughout central Africa, and it is in these clubs that Thonton Kabeya has danced himself. The performance of the dance is just one component of rumba culture, there is also fashion, music, and melodrama. It is a microcosm of society and relationships, which Kabeya presents in careful detail. His work also captures the grittiness of city life, the intensity of streets bustling with people and the hard realities of urban living. In Pasada, his first solo exhibition at Everard Read, Kabeya presents three series of artworks: The Pasada series, depicting rumba dancers in moments of connection, the Moziki Street series capturing the social dynamics in and around the rumba club, and the Tablet series of abstract works which fracture the pictorial representations of rumba.
Kabeya actively challenges his medium of paint and canvas, constantly pursuing new and experimental ways to create texture, depth, and balance of colour. His process involves glueing layers of canvas together, which he then cuts, carves, and sculpts before painting. In the Tablet series, Kabeya’s mastery of colour and texture is evident. The abstract compositions, some with hints of figuration, offer a reading of the fractures in our society. Gold seams link the blocks within the Tablet series works, like the Japanese ‘kintsugi’ technique of mending broken pottery with a golden lacquer so that the object is rendered more beautiful after having been mended. The Tablet series explores the beauty of fragmentation, reconfiguration and balance and creates space for reflection, a Pasada from figuration to abstraction, and back again.