Born in 1928 (Angola) - died in 1997 (Kinshasa, D.R.Congo)
Active in Leopoldville / Kinshasa from 1951 to 1975
Exceptional photographer of outside-nights and other fashion places in Leopoldville between 1955 - 1965, in the years of independence of the former Belgian Congo - Zaire.
Jean Depara, photographer in Leopoldville (DRCongo) between 1951-1975, shares his night life in the streets and bars, dance halls, and in day in athletic clubs and sports complex pool 'La Funa' of the capitale.
Jean Loup Pivin met Jean Depara end of 1995 working on publishing of the magazine RN 21 Kinshasa, where his photographs were published for the first time, before other books as his monograph 'Depara, Night & Day in Kinshasa' in 2010. Then aged 67 years, Depara had stopped to photograph since 1989 but he was still vivid and lively as in his youth. Depara is not hiding he was himself one of those turbulent youths, limit bad boy, frequenting bars and dance halls, drinking beer Primus and flirting with easy girls, dressing themselves as Bill, the American western movies cowboys fashion, practicing bodybuilding like the peplum movies, during this exceptional moment for years 1955-1965 when the Belgian Congo will gain independence and later became Zaire and its capital Kinshasa.
Depara simply photograph is own life. And no other African photographer has gone so far in the accuracy of the reality of this time.
[run the slideshow below]
Depara begins in 1951 to photograph, the year of his marriage in Matadi. To record the event, he buys a small Adox camera. Back in Kinshasa in 1951, Depara attempts to reconcile photography and various odd jobs (repairer of bicycles, cameras, scrap ...). Then in 1953 he set up his studio "Jean Whisky Depara" in Kato on No. 54.
Inter-ethnic metropolis since the years 1920-30, Leopoldville, as Brazzaville on the other side, is a bustling capital where you heard day and night Polka, Maringa, Tango, and of course Rumba. The music brings together the entire population of the city, Ghanaian, Senegalese, Congolese, coastmen, African, European... Music is the cultural link around which the populations of the city have joined forces, finding both melodies and ancient rhythms, and modern ones created by their idols or imported from Europe and Americas.
Grouped into associations, youths of Leopoldviile (Kinsahsa) gather in companies each with a gang leader, a style of dress, their female muses, a place where to meet (usually one of the countless bars, dance halls, the 'Siluvangi', 'Amouzou', 'Congo Bar', 'Air France', 'Quist', 'Ok Bar', 'Chez Macauley'…) and ear music band (the most important are "OK Jazz" with Franco and the "African Jazz" with Joseph Kabasele), with singers and musicians perfectly trained in church choirs.
The boom of the music was amplified by the many labels installed on site (as 'Olympia' created in 1940, 'Ngoma' en 1947, 'Loningisa', 'Opika', 'Essengo'…). They have facilitated the use of new instruments like electric guitar and sax, the diffusion of tubes (with radio) across Africa and Europe, organizing concerts and remuneration of the authors.
Depara is part of these fun-loving youths, dancing, flirting. By day, while continuing photo studio, he attended in the city Nganda (bars) as 'Kwist' held by a West-African, 'Ok Bar', on Itaga, 'Sarma Congo'. He also enjoys photographing bodybuilders (great seducers soon very popular) that he finds the afternoon at the sports complex La Funa, a place of entertainment for all, Blacks and Whites.
At night, alone with his flash camera slung over his shoulder, 'like a bow' he said, he toured the fashionable nightclubs : the 'Afro Mogenbo’, the ‘Champs-Elysées’, the ‘Djambo-Djambu’, the ‘Oui’,the ‘Fifi’, the ‘Show Bot’. In 1955, the ‘Kongo Bar’ was the most 'in' spot on Tshoapa street after Itaga, (now a church) along the ‘Opika’ (intersection Kabambaré-Bokassa) and the ‘Bingabar’ on Moero lake (Barumbu neighbourhood). Each dancing had its resident orchestra and its regulars boys and girls. The atmosphere was crazy, suitable for all encounters. And the business of photography was easy for Depara. Noticed in 1954 by Franco, the maestro of the Zairean rumba, he became his official photographer (Depara was only 26) and invited him to all his musical evenings (including in Mokalia) until the singer's death in 1989. The atmosphere is crazy, as selling photography easy.
While keeping up his night work, he tooks photograph the day in his studio until 1956. From 1975 to 1989, in his fifties, he become the official photographer attached to the Parliament.
In 1989 he retires to devote himself to fishing and building pirogues. Depara died in 1997 in Kinshasa at the age of 69 years, leaving more than 5000 pictures of a boosted and carefree time when Kinshasa was the vibrant and crazy heart of all over Africa. "Kin-the-joy, Kin-the-madness" as says the novelist Achilles Ngoye.
The photograph of Depara, always perfect framing and knowing transcribe the crazy atmosphere of the youth of Kin, not bother with any prejudice about actors of its nights, nor of taboo, or surprising love for a night, there a beautiful provocative neckline, or even after the escapade of a band in search of adventure. Because Depara is not only a photographer but also a young man who lives moments of his photo. And we relive those moments. The great Depara photographs the great Kinshasa in years 1951-75.
The Jean Depara photo work is represented by Revue Noire by agreement with the Estate of Depara.
2011-2012 : 'Night & Day in Kinshasa, 1950-1965' in Revue Noire Paris and Halle de la Gombé in Kinshasa
2009 : 'Les nuits de Kinshasa, Jean Depara, 1955 à 1975', Bamako African photography Festival, Mali 2009
2004 : 'E la Nave Va, Quiet Days in Kinshasa', MAMCO, Geneve Switzerland
2002 : Centre de la Photographie, Geneve Switzerland
2001 : Bamako African photography Festival (Rencontres de la Photographie de Bamako), Mali
2015 : 'Beauté Congo - 1926-2005 - Congo Kitoko', Fondation Cartier, Paris
2008 : "Zoom sur la femme congolaise", espace "Art de vivre", Kinshasa
2007 : 'Le rituel de la pose' Musée des Arts derniers, Paris
2006-2007 : '100% Africa', Guggenheim Museum de Bilbao, Spain
2005 : 'Arts of Africa', Grimaldi Forum, Monaco
2005 : 'African Art Now, the Jean Pigozzi Collection', Museum of Fine Art Houston, Usa
2002 : Centre le la photographie Genève, collection Pigozzi
2000 : Noorderlicht 2000 photofestival, Fries Museum Leeuwarden, Netherland
2000 : 'Africa Past-Present', Seydou Keita, P.K. Apagya, Depara, C.A. Azaglo and Ojeikere, Fifty One Fine Art Photography Gallery, Anvers Belgique
1998 - 1999 : 'Eye Africa : African photography 1840-1998', Festival of African photography, SANG Cape Town, South Africa
1998-2001 : 'L'Afrique par elle-même' ('Africa by Africans'), Maison européenne de la Photographie, Paris 1998 ; Pinacotteca São Paulo, Brazil 1998 ; New Market in Cape Town, South Africa 1999 ; Rencontres de la Photo Africaine 1999 in Bamako Mali ; Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin germany 1999 ; Barbican Museum London 1999 : Anacostia Museum Washington 2000 ; New African Museum New York 2000 ; Bologne Italia ; Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren Belgium 2001 (tour exhibition curated by Revue Noire)
* Exhibition catalog 'Beauté Congo - 1926-2005 - Congo Kitoko', Fondation Cartier, Paris 2015
* 'Depara', collection PhotoBolsillo by La Fabrica (Spain) and Revue Noire (France) 2010
* 'C magazine N°5', Jean Depara, Ivory Press 2007
* Exhibition catalog '100% Africa', publishing by TF Editores and FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, 2006
* Exhibition catalog 'African Art Now, Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection', publishing by Merrell, 2005
* 'L’Afrique par elle-même' ('Africa by Africans'), Revue Noire, Paris 2003
* 'Photographes de Kinshasa', Revue Noire, Paris 2001
* Catalog of the Rencontres de la Photographie de Bamako (Bamako African Photography Festival), Mali 2001, 'Mémoires Intimes d'un Nouveau Millénaire - Intimates Memories of the New Millenium', Edition Eric Koehler, Paris.
* Catalog Noorderlicht 2000 photofestival, Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, Netherland 2001
* 'Anthology of African Photography' Revue Noire, Paris and DAP Editions, New York 1999
* 'Anthologie de la Photographie africaine et de l'Océan indien' Revue Noire Editions, Paris 1998
* 'Kinshasa', Revue Noire magazine N°21, Revue Noire Editions, Paris 1996
by Revue Noire Editions
Publishings included photographs by Jean Depara available here on the site