Pitshou Mampa

Pitshou Mampa is a Congolese artist, animator and illustrator.

He is best known as lead illustrator of ‘Nelson Mandela: the Authorised Comic Book’ (Jonathan Ball Publishers, Umlando Wezithombe, 2008), an award-winning graphic novel about the life of South African activist and President Nelson Mandela.

Born in Kinshasa, DRC, in 1979 as the oldest son of a military colonel, Pitshou and his family lived through the atrocities of war. Most of Mampa’s art is self-taught: As a young boy, he learnt anatomy by sketching some of the casualties, discovered in the morning. To counteract the horrors he saw, he would sketch or paint beautiful landscapes. Although both parents were extremely creative, his mom was the practical one – sewing, crafting whilst raising 5 children. Plans for the talented young Pitshou to study art in Canada after finishing school, were scuppered when his father was murdered and no funds were available. Then in the 1990s, Mampa moved to Johannesburg, South Africa to help his uncle who was badly hurt in a car accident. Here he finally met a modern day hero – Nelson Mandela – after completing work as the lead illustrator on the inspiring legacy series, depicting Mandela’s life. Whilst working closely with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Mampa also started working with various charities, opening the eyes of youngsters in the townships, to the opportunities in creativity, art, illustration and animation.

Mampa is very versatile – having no preference when it comes to media. From charcoal to oil, spray paint or digital art, he will make the subject come to life.

The artist Mampa most admires is Leonardo da Vinci, for his “SANS FRONTIER” approach – no limits, no boundaries, his genius cannot be boxed in or categorised. Growing up and surviving the atrocities of war, Mampa wants to use his art to bring to life the beauty in this world. Be it realistic nature scenes, portrait sketches or even imaginary fictional depictions, Mampa’s goal is to capture and elevate beauty and joy.

On 16 July 2008 ‘Nelson Mandela: the Authorised Comic Book’ was published, two days before Mandela’s 90th birthday. The graphic novel adapts Mandela’s entire life, from his youth over his famous emprisonment to his presidential election. It is comprised of eight individual comics which were circulated for free to South African school children between 2005 and 2007 as ‘The Madiba Legacy’ series. The first one, ‘A Son of the Eastern Cape’ (2005) reached a print-run of a million copies! The series was produced through Umlando Wezithombe (“History of Pictures”), a South-African company headed by scriptwriter Nic Buchanan, which publishes comic books about African history and role models for a young audience.

The creative team for the ‘Madiba Legacy’ series consisted of Pitshou Mampa (lead penciller, inking, colours), Sean Abbood (colours), Santa Buchanan (storyboards), José Jungo (inks and colouring), Sivuyile Matwa (illustration), Ricky Pascal Nzoni (illustration) and Ritchie Orphan (inking, colours). The authors were sometimes faced with challenges. Since no pictures were ever taken of Mandela before he reached the age of 19, the artists studied his facial bone structure as an adult and tried to imagine what he might have looked like as a young boy? The book was well-researched in cooperation with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

On the day the book was launched Nelson Mandela gave an official speech and joked: “You know you are really famous when you become a comic’s character.” He expressed the hope that it would encourage young people to read more: “That joy has been mine all my life, and it is one I wish for all South Africans. If it is easy to read for other people like me, with eyes not like they used to be, and it reaches entirely new readers, then the project will prove to be worthwhile.” The book was published in South Africa, but also appeared in translation in the Netherlands, France and the United States. In 2010 ‘Nelson Mandela: the Authorised Comic Book’ won the Children’s African Book Award for “Best Book for Older Readers”, chosen by the Outreach Council of the non-profit corporation African Studies Association.

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