Fanciful Cities: The Art of Bodys Isek Kingelez

A whimsical sculpture of the UN buildingU.N., paper, paperboard, mixed media

Bodys Isek Kingelez was a Congolese artist who built colourful models of fanciful cities. The artist’s maquettes were often made with the intent of imagining harmonious, almost utopian alternative futures for the cities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including Kingelez’ hometown of Kinshasa.

A diorama of a complex city made with discarded paper and materialskimbembele ihunga


In his practice, Kingelez employed a wide variety of materials including household detritus such as soda cans, plastic caps, and cardboard. The use of found and discarded lends the works a more visceral sense, hinting at the current conditions of the city which the artist is reimagining. Technically, Kingelez’ dioramas are built with an awe-inspiring level of skill and attention to detail. Though they remain aesthetically playfull, there’s a clear sense of planning and architectural attention that goes into each piece. 


Kingelez passed away in 2015, but his art has continued to garner notoriety. The artist’s message, one of giving due attention not only to the present day but to future potentials, is one that is especially pertinent today.

A detailed view of a complex city dioramaville fantôme (detail)

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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