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Living in the midst of the chaos that is contemporary Kinshasa, Rigobert Nimi (born in 1965, Tshiela, Bas-Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo) brings an engineer’s idealism to his commitment to better the world through his art. For Nimi, imagination and creativity are tools to relieve suffering and the difficulties of life. He has commented on his work: “To conceive and construct these machines with rigor and precision is a way for me to make my dreams become concrete realities, to forget everyday life and its difficulties. It is courage, primarily, that has allowed me to succeed. Young artists here are an ignored resource. We are not valued by those who should be encouraging and helping us.”

Nimi has acknowledged that cartoons and science-fiction movies were an early inspiration, and since the year 2000 he has produced a remarkable series of intricate space ships and robot factories. Each work requires careful planning; Nimi calculates and sketches every step of the machine’s construction in advance. He employs recycled materials—industrial detritus, plastic, sheet metal, aluminum, electric components—that he finds in Kinshasa. Cutting, transforming, and molding with his own hands, Nimi employs only five tools: a pair of scissors, a customized knife, universal pliers, bent-nosed pliers, and a ruler. General conception, method, and technical precision are constants in the execution of these monumental works which take more than fifteen months to complete. For Nimi, movement, sound and light are an integral part of the work; the mechanism must be simple, robust, and perform like clockwork.

For many years Nimi has been satisfied to sell his “toys,” yet he dreams of finding the means to realize projects which will astonish the world. He defines himself as a searcher who aims to create extraordinary, impressive works, beyond what people have seen or imagined. Writing to André Magnin, the artist has declared: “To accomplish one’s dreams requires patience and tenacity. What I am producing today has in fact a long history. . . . It has been necessary for you to find me and for you to acknowledge my talent in order for me to finally see a chance to believe in everything that was in my head.”

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