Biography & Inspiration

Born on February 10, 1943 in Katanga, George Kahilu Manika was educated from 1952-1958 and prepared to become a teacher. In 1962, he learned that an art school was opening in Kitwe, in Northern Rhodesia, now known as Zambia and got a scholarship from the Methodist Church. For four years he studied to become a book illustrator at the African Literature Center. In December 1966, he received a diploma in the plastic arts and illustration.


In 1967, he moved to Lubumbashi an important center for the Methodist Church. He was hired by the department of Christian education and literature where he worked from 1967 to 1974, which is when he started work as an independent artist.


At the beginning of his career, Kahilu painted mostly on paper. Slowly,  personal research brought him to working with oil paint using knives of various sizes. Fascinated by light, the painter observes nature and portrays it with chromatic changes on the canvas, creating volume and depth. For the artist, as for many Congolese, landscape is nothing without people. Thus, each painting has two dimensions, human and nature.


Kahilu finds his inspiration in everyday life and the sublime. He shows a preference for greens and mauves always warmed with subtle use of yellow,orange and red. When he paints a canvas, the artist chooses another as a palette and covers it entirely with tints, created by chance from the mixing, chosen for the pleasure to the eye rather than having any allusion to reality. This improvised palette will serve as the background to a theme that the artist will use as he contemplates the abstract canvas. “Les Baigneuses,” “Le Champ de Mars,” and “Les Amoureux Masques” were created from these palettes.


A rapid touch with the knife reveals strong lines and contrasting shadows and light. Kahilu says, “One has to know how to prepare the primary colors like one prepares meat.”

The artist balances his compositions, by contrasting light and reminders of color.


His life in the city does not make him forget his origins. He feels profoundly tshokwe. Life in the village has imprinted in his memory, the gestures of the women at work, the ceremonies of “Mukhanda” or the traditional initiations, the breath of nature on the savanna or in the bamboo. 


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