Depara came to photography almost by accident. To
record his wedding in 1950 he bought himself a small
Adox camera after which he never ceased to seek
out new subjects for his lens.
in Kinshasa in 1951, Depara at first combined his
photography with various small jobs: repairing bicycles
and cameras, dealing in scrap metal. In 1954 the celebrated
Zairian singer Franco invited him to become his official
photographer, launching Deparas career as a
chronicler of Kinshasa social life in the era when
the Rumba and the Cha Cha defined the citys
Depara set up a studio under the name Jean 'Whisky'
Depara and spent his days in bars like the Kwist,
the OK Bar, or the Sarma Congo. At night he hung out
at such clubs as the Afro Mogenbo, the Champs-Elysées,
the Djambo Djambu, the Oui, the Fifi, the Show Boat.
Night owls particularly fascinated him and with his
flash Depara captured an Africa stripped of conventional
social codes. Interracial couples, hipsters, and those
who in imitation of James Dean chose to Live
fast, die young became both his subjects and
Depara s themes in his photographs are the Miziki
who have such a powerful role in Kinshasa society.
These associations of women were rooted in pre-independence
traditions, and a Moziki (singular form of Miziki)
could act as a banker within her social circle. In
the 1950s and 1960s, Miziki associations took such
names as 'La Pause' and 'La Mode', and commissioned
famous bands to compose songs for their annual events.