Summary

Nickel Mundabi Ngadwa studied, practised and taught painting and sculpture in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon until forced to finally seek refuge in Australia in 2009. He has continued his artistic practice in Shepparton and has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions.

Nickel Mundabi Ngadwa (1965 - ) went to high school in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo and earned his baccalaureate certificate in 1988. Nickel's grandfather Zachese Mundabi Ngadwa (1886 - 1972) was an artist who was born in Kisangani, DRC and worked in Kinshasa. It was his grandfather’s wish that Nickel become an artist and he bequeathed to him a collection of traditional masks and other artefacts that he had made. Nickel remembers being in his grandfather’s workshop when he was five years old and beginning to carve small items such as key rings. According to Nickel, in Congo there are three tribes known for their traditional arts - the Chokwe, Bateke and Yaka. His grandfather, influenced by these traditions as well as colonial Belgian culture, was able to professionalise Congolese art in the mid-twentieth century.

Nickel then studied teaching at the Malako Institute and Plastic Arts at the Fine Arts Academy (Academie des Beaux-Arts) in Kinshasa and received a bachelor degree in 1997. In 1995 he began working as an apprentice at the African Arts workshop in Kinshasa under the Master sculptor and painter Oskar Mpane Ankombo. From 1996 to 1997, Nickel taught decoration design to fashion design students at Ngemba High school in Kinshasa. In 1998 he began working as a designer and compositor at SOTE]! KI Textile Company Kisangani. There he created patterns for the textiles that were being manufactured by the textile company.

Nickel was forced to flee to Cameroon because of the change of regime and the arrest of his father in 2000. While living in Douala, Cameroon he made an independent living from his art work. In 2006, he was contacted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) manager and he was asked to make some art pieces for the International Day of Refugees held annually on 20 June. Soon after, the government of Cameroon gave him the responsibility to open a painting and sculpting workshop to train the unemployed, young people, orphans, and people with disabilities.

Nickel arrived in Australia in September 2009 via Australia’s Humanitarian Program. Since then he has participated in four collective exhibitions and one solo exhibition. The first collective exhibition was ‘Creative Cultures’ organised by Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre in July 2010. He has participated in the Heartlands Refugee Art Prize, organised by Multicultural Arts Victoria and AMES since its inception in 2010, when one of his paintings won third prize. Nickel’s first Australian solo exhibition ‘African Arts’ was held at Fo Guan Yuan Gallery, in Melbourne in July 2013 and it was supported by Multicultural Arts Victoria.

Nickel both paints and sculpts. His sculpture reflects both his traditional culture and the artistic influences of his grandfather, as well as more contemporary forms and his style evolves. He creates also to produce items for sale to help support his family. Nickel's painting style is diverse in both the media he employs and his style and subject matter.

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