Tam vs Kitenge

For its second virtual exhibition, Galerie Hugues Charbonneau is delighted to present a first-time collaborative project between Karen Tam and Moridja Kitenge Banza.


The Tam vs Kitenge project, which arose and took shape during the lockdown, is made up of works created jointly by the two artists who exchanged pieces to be completed in turn over the course of the 2020 spring and summer. The exhibition title and its poster are a nod to the iconic exhibition Warhol x Basquiat, shown in 1985 at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York—an exhibition that symbolizes and concludes the production, throughout the 1980s, of collaborative works between Andy Warhol and Michael Basquiat.


Tam and Kitenge Banza take their shared interest in cultural issues of identity, transmission and racism as a point of departure. More specifically, their work is similarly marked by research and reflections about the economic relations that link North America with China or Africa, about the influence of Jesuit communities regarding religious assimilation outside of Europe, about the political implications of artefacts and antiquities (such as Chinese vases or African masks) kept in museum institutions, and about the potential of fiction, even humour, to rethink the dominant history.


Both challenge the narratives and representations of racialized immigrants by proposing other forms of visibility and spaces for them.

Power Relations

The artists are interested in the economic ties that link China and Africa, in particular in regards to Chinese interests in the exploitation of railroad lines and sea links in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The iconography of these two works are inspired by various construction sites such as those found around the Matadi–Kinshasa railroad (1890) and the Matadi port (1886), but also those set up by the Canadian Pacific Railway throughout Canada in the 1880s, which employed a huge number of Chinese labourers.

Karen Tam & Moridja Kitenge Banza, Tam vs Kitenge 5, 2020
Ink on hand cut paper (unframed)
28 x 38 cm (11” x 15’)

Karen Tam & Moridja Kitenge Banza, Tam vs Kitenge 6, 2020
Ink on hand cut paper (unframed)
28 x 38 cm (11” x 15’)


The racist stereotypes and the problems associated with exoticism and orientalism are guiding threads in Karen Tam’s and Moridja Kitenge Banza’s approaches.

Kitenge Banza proposes here a self-portrait from the series, je crois savoir comment il me voit. Série 2, in which his head has been replaced by an indigenous African flower species. Tam intervened in the background of the work with a border cut-out around the character, using a motif based on Chinese coins.

Tam’s mask, titled Chinoiserie Face Mask II, was created in response to the resurgence of anti-Asian racism and acts of violence carried out against Asian communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly non-functional, it invites us to reflect on the racialization of viruses, a recurrent phenomenon in history.

Karen Tam & Moridja Kitenge Banza, Tam vs Kitenge 1, 2020
Ink on hand cut mylar (unframed)
61 x 45,6 cm (24” x 18’)

Karen Tam, Chinoiserie Face Mask II, 2020
Cutout vinyl fabric, ribbon
Edition 3/3
21 x 22 cm (8,5” x 8,7”)

Maps and memories

Kitenge Banza’s abstract drawings are a continuation of the series Chiromancies; a group of ink drawings on Mylar in which each work is presented as a divination card that retraces the heritage, life-path and future of the artist. With her ornamental cut-outs, Tam draws on makes use of traditional Chinese motifs of natural elements to continue this meditation on origins. The blending of these two formal languages extends the artists’ exploration of porous and malleable identities.

Karen Tam & Moridja Kitenge Banza, Tam vs Kitenge 3, 2020
Ink on hand cut mylar (unframed)
61 x 45,6 cm (24” x 18’)

Karen Tam & Moridja Kitenge Banza, Tam vs Kitenge 4, 2020
Ink on hand cut mylar (unframed)
61 x 45,6 cm (24” x 18’)


Tam and Moridja Kitenge Banza have previously experimented with the creation of fictional and counterfeit currencies to reflect on the notion of value in art. Together, they have expanded their investigations into the subject: what financial impact will the ongoing current pandemic have on the art market? What is the  responsibility of collectors towards artists in the context of an economic recession? How can the value of a work of art be stabilized in a time of crisis?

Their answer: in the form of multiples, savings bonds issued in limited quantities by the TAMKIT Bank!



Karen Tam & Moridja Kitenge Banza, Tam vs Kitenge 2, 2020
Digital print on archival paper (unframed)
Edition 1/5
31 x 41 cm (12” x 16”)