African artist draws inspiration from bustling street

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In Brazzaville, where art stalls can be found almost after every turn on the streets, local artist Andre N'Kitengue finds his inner peace on canvas in spite of traffic noise. In the capital of the Republic of Congo, flowers with bright blaze are soothed beneath N'Kitengue's loving hand.

At his outdoor atelier, N'Kitengue kicks off his day as usual in front of his paint stand, waiting for inspiration. Unlike other artists who see silence and solitude during making art, he prefers to capture the passion from the bustling street.

"The noise here actually gives me the strength to stay creative. To make abstract paintings, it is about capturing the things in real life that people can't quite understand. So sitting here gives me more inspiration than anywhere else," he says.

From colorful paintings to exquisite wooden sculptures, magic always happens here, where artists set up their ateliers next to the road and an abandoned train track. This down-to-earth art district is one of the most famous destinations for art lovers from other countries.

Though coloring his canvas and dealing with art buyers are his bread and butter, N'Kitengue insists that he is always an artist, not a businessman, as he carries on his shoulders a sense of responsibility as an artist for his local community.

"I'm worried to see our world get upset by the pandemic. It is in this time of difficulties that we need to stay united," says N'Kitengue.

With cases surging in Africa as third wave gains pace, he now shifts his focus on paintings that serve as prevention reminders for local community.

"As cars passing by my atelier, drivers and passengers would be able to see my paintings about the virus and be aware of the fact that the pandemic is not over yet," he says.

N'Kitengue is also an active teacher who takes in young apprentices during school vacations.

"Brazzaville is an artistic city because of its unique history.… This is the reason why we need to pass on the legacy to our younger generations," he says.

Elvis, N'Kitengue's eldest son, is on his way to become a professional like his father. Though the two have creative differences, stunning pieces keep coming out of this father-son atelier. But for N'Kitengue, artists shoulder an even bigger responsibility.

"We are not only artists. We are also here to be historians," he says, adding that by capturing the real life, he wants to present the image of the Republic of Congo to the outside world.

For N'Kitengue, who is also surprised to see that more Chinese visitors and artists have shown up in the art district, artists from both the Republic of Congo and China should work together for the sake of art.

"We are really looking forward to that," he says.

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