WIUM Tristates Public Radio

"I Am an Artist"

May 9, 2019

Albert Bope moved from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United States in November, 2016.  He works at the JBS Pork plant in Beardstown but would like to make his living doing something else.

“I am an artist and I’m looking for people who can get me out to show what we’ve been doing,” said Bope, speaking through interpreter Gabriel Kaniket.

“I’ve been doing this (art) for over 45 years and this is my passion. But I’m not able to do it because I have to feed my family (by working at JBS). So I would appreciate any sponsor to help me get my artistic talents going.”

He said he also demonstrates art through traditional dance.

You can get a taste of Bope’s talents by visiting The Hub Arts & Cultural Center in downtown Rushville.  An exhibit featuring sculptures, masks, and other works by Bope and his ancestors will be displayed through mid-June.

"Lualua" by Albert Bope. He said the piece represents fertility.
Credit Rich Egger

Bope said The Hub became aware of the art work after his children showed some of it at school.  Representatives from The Hub then met with him at his ESL classes at the Spoon River College Center in Rushville.

Bope said all the pieces in the exhibit were made in Africa.

“My desire is that by cultural exchange, I show you (and) show the people from here the culture that I came from. The expression of them, the feelings of them. The meaning of my culture,” he said, adding he hopes to learn from American culture.

Erin Eveland, Executive Director of The Hub, said they were amazed by the quality of the work.

“We were kind of in awe and felt that it really belonged in a museum. We’re a gallery and felt a little out of our depth trying to figure out how to display it and how to handle it and making sure we are doing everything we can to preserve it,” Eveland said.

“This is the first time we’ve had anything like this.”