'Cadet Congo Ganja', Tim Bailey

Painting showing a bald man in military uniform with white face paint

Oil on canvas, 40.5 x 30.5cm, 2007/08

Artist's statement

The title of this painting was produced with internet software used to form Jamaican Creole names from English names. The phrase suggested a fusion of Mr Kurtz from Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' and Colonel Kurtz from Coppola's 'Apocalypse Now.' In the novella, Kurtz was an ivory-trader on the Congo, while in the film he was an American soldier illegally encamped in Cambodia during the war in Vietnam. My Kurtz, 'Cadet Congo Ganja', is a cultural composite, a bust-portrait of a bald young Caucasian wearing the uniform of a West Point military cadet, his face modified by war paint that is part clown and part warrior.

My knowledge that Edgar Allan Poe was also a cadet at West Point (before his court-martial) may somehow have influenced this painting, which is from a series of portraits of members of a fictional colonial family, 'The Rial Family'. The word 'Rial' ('royal' in English) is a modifier used by Jamaican Creoles to denote children of mixed ethnic parentage. It refers to the Jamaican parent; so, for instance, Chinese/ Jamaican becomes Chiney-Rial. We arrive at this version of Kurtz-Royal, opaque and as impenetrable as a joke told in a foreign language.


Tim Bailey was born in Flitwick, Bedfordshire in 1966.
He attended Central Saint Martins London 1985-88. He has exhibited in group shows including 'Near Sharjah' Museum of Art United Arab Emirates 1998, 'Slimvolume 01' Austrian Cultural Institute London 2001, 'Like Beads On An Abacus Designed To Measure Infinity' Rockwell London 2005, 'Frozen Tears III' (book launch) Koenig Books London 2006 and '990: General History of Other Areas' Beacon Art Project Mablethorpe Lincolnshire 2007.