Ralphael Bandwhinda’s “Little Kings,” depicting the plight of Congolese children, is now on display at The RollCall Theatre in Atlanta. Located inside Ponce City Market, this new series is made up of acrylic portrait paintings delving into the challenging conditions faced by the Congolese people, with a particular focus on the struggles endured by its children. 

Bandwhinda’s artistic journey began with a commitment to shed light on these issues, prompting him to leave his home in Congo Kinshasa in Central Africa and pursue an art education in Atlanta at Savannah College of Art and Design. The exhibit showcases five distinct works, each portraying a poignant narrative of the Congolese children’s reality.

“Being from the Congo there are a lot of stories that people don’t know and as a Congolese person, I feel that I have to give something back to where I am from,” Bandwhinda told The Atlanta Voice.

“BAZA BANA” serves as the opening piece in the “Little Kings” series, presenting a portrait of a Congolese boy filled with longing and vulnerability. Bandwhinda’s intention is to draw attention to the harsh realities faced by many children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where child labor is all too prevalent. The title, “BAZA BANA,” meaning “Help me” in Lingala, serves as a plea from the young boy, urging viewers to acknowledge the challenges endured by children caught in the cycle of forced labor. 

The narrative continues with, “Freedom,” which portrays a group of Congolese boys gracefully soaring through the sky amidst ethereal blue clouds. The crowns they wear symbolize their inherent worth and dignity, while tattoos resembling Congolese masks adorn their faces. This artwork explores the stark contrast between the dreams and boundless freedom these children yearn for and the harsh realities they face as child laborers contributing to the construction of major cities worldwide.

“Labor” is meant as a tribute to the unwavering determination and resilience of the young individuals enduring circumstances in the Congo. 

“The Protector” is meant to serve as a reminder of the impact of human exploitation on both individuals and the natural world.

Finally, “C’est Notre Terre” is meant to be a reminder of the impact of mining activities on the land and lives of the Congolese people. The title, meaning “This is Our Land,” is about the connection of the native people to the land and the collective stake in its resources. The painting depicts the true story of Mama Natali and her son, King, who belong to a family of artisanal miners contributing to up to 30% of the Congo’s cobalt production. 

Bandwhinda aims to shine a light on the challenging realities faced by these families as they navigate their daily lives. “A guy from Australia captured that moment on camera, and I just captured that moment- directly in,” said Bandwhinda to The Atlanta Voice.

The exhibit is on display till August 20th.