Born in Bandundu province, Congo, Moke (1950 - 2001) played a pivotal role in establishing a new style of 'Popular Painting' in Kinshasa following Congo's independence in 1960. An autodidact, Moke had no formal artistic training. His early works were executed on discarded cardboard. However, his vibrant and dynamic depictions of life in the capital soon captured the public's imagination.
In 1965, he painted a scene of General Mobutu (president of the DRC, 1965-1997), leading a parade commemorating Independence Day. The composition was positively received, and enabled Moke to pursue his artistic career full-time. He set up a studio at the crossroads of Kasa Vubu and Bolobo avenues, where he worked alongside a number of billboard designers and advertising artists. Moke's painting style reached full maturity in this environment, influenced by the designers' use of bold colours and caricature.
Moke's paintings were inspired by his own experiences of living in Kinshasa. They depict groups of youths in bars, bustling street scenes, the flamboyant posturing of the city's fashionable 'sapeurs'. The art historians, Enwezor and Okeke, describe Moke as a "veritable visual journalist", with an eye for the "pictorial thrill of mundane experience, of the urban folk, or the spectacular performance of official pageantry".
Moke and his fellow Popular Painters differ markedly from their post-colonial counterparts in Nigeria, Dakar and Kenya. These artists from Kinshasa emerged from a non-radical political discourse; their paintings engage with social issues with humour, their aesthetic drawn from their local visual cultures. Curator Okwui Enwezor describes Kinshasa's Popular Painting as "one of the most important instances of social and political engagement by contemporary African artists."