MAGNIN-A

JEAN DEPARA



Né en 1928 à Kboklolo, Angola.
Vivait et travaillait à Kinshasa, République Démocratique du Congo.
Décédé en 1997

Jean Depara commence la photographie en 1950 avec un petit appareil de marque Adex. Arrivé à Kinshasa en 1951, Depara tente de concilier la photographie et divers petits métiers: réparateur de vélos, d'appareils photos, ferrailleur. Kinshasa est une grande capitale où I'on entend la Rumba et le cha-cha-cha jour et nuit. Le célèbre chanteur zaïrois Franco l'invite à ses soirées musicales, et devient le principal sujet des photographies de Depara qui installe son studio :  Le Jean Whisky Depara. Il passe ses journées au Kwist, au Ok Ba ou au Sarma Congo, bars réputés de la cité. La nuit, il fréquente les boîtes de nuit à la mode: I'Afro Mogenbo, le Champs-Élysées, le Djambo Djambu et s'amuse à photographier ce monde de noctambule qui est fier de venir lui acheter ses tirages. Ses photographies noir et blanc saisissent avec pertinence la folle ambiance, l'aisance, la joie, l'insouciance et la SAPE (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnalités Elégantes) de cette époque. Depara cesse ses activités en 1989.         

Born 1928, Kboklolo, Angola
Died 1997, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo  

Depara came to photography almost by accident. To record his wedding in 1950 he bought himself a small Adox camera—after which he never ceased to seek out new subjects for his lens. Settling in Kinshasa in 1951, Depara at first combined his photography with various small jobs: repairing bicycles and cameras, dealing in scrap metal. In 1954 the celebrated Zairian singer Franco invited him to become his official photographer, launching Depara’s career as a chronicler of Kinshasa social life in the era when the Rumba and the Cha Cha defined the city’s rhythm. He set up a studio under the name Jean Whisky Depara and spent his days in bars like the Kwist, the OK Bar, or the Sarma Congo. At night he hung out at such clubs as the Afro Mogenbo, the Champs-Elysées, the Djambo Djambu, the Oui, the Fifi, the Show Boat.  Night owls particularly fascinated him and with his flash Depara captured an Africa stripped of conventional social codes.  Interracial couples, hipsters, and those who in imitation of James Dean chose to “Live fast, die young” became both his subjects and his clients.  

Among Depara’s themes in his photographs are the Miziki who have such a powerful role in Kinshasa society. These associations of women were rooted in pre-independence traditions, and a Moziki (singular form of Miziki) could act as a banker within her social circle.  In the 1950s and 1960s, Miziki associations took such names as La Pause and La Mode, and commissioned famous bands to compose songs for their annual events.  

Depara died leaving his archive of hundreds negatives untitled; with the permission of the artist’s family, his close friend Oscar Mbemba has titled the works in the spirit of this era.