Kitoko Ya Kolela: A Theater of War and Fashion

Carlo Ontal

Artist Bio

Kitoko Ya Kolela—Congolese Lingala for “So Beautiful I Could Cry”—is a two-year public engagement that consists of: choreographed still photography of militia violence; a photo narrative that mirrors Jesus’ Stations of the Cross with the suffering of the Congolese people; meditations on European depictions of massacres by Goya, as re-enacted by Congolese peasants in a warlord-controlled village; and a pseudo-documentary film as psychedelic road trip through African war zones by the artist, a United Nations filmmaker. Cognizant of his own complicity from within the humanitarian-industrial complex, and drained of confidence in our usual modes of engagement except for the art process, the artist employs myth, fashion and poetry to incite urgent reflection—clarity over sentiment—upon our new worlds of pain, where ultra-violence is both medium and message.

Award Year

In Progress

Carlo Ontal

Carlo Ontal

Jersey City, NJ

In an earlier life in the Philippines under martial law, Carlo Ontal became acquainted with authoritarian systems of governance and propaganda masquerading as communication; consequently, his sole logical response was to flee into an art practice in film and improvisational theater. Upon rejoining his family in the United States, the artist worked in independent film production and freelance photography in New York, Los Angeles and Minneapolis. An unrepentant evangelist for the core ideas of the United Nations, he has worked at UN Headquarters in New York, and over the last 15 years, as a filmmaker, editor and video producer, stationed full-time in the three largest peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.