Sindika Dokolo, the Congolese businessman and owner of one the world’s most important African art collections, has died aged 48.According to a tweet posted to Dokolo’s verified Twitter account, he died on October 29 in Dubai. The post went on to say that his family had made the announcem
ent with “the deepest sorrow and immense sadness” while thanking “all who have expressed their sympathy and kindness and who share our grief.”Dokolo was born in 1972 in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then known as Zaire.
The son of a notable art collector, he was raised in Belgium and France, and began collecting at the age of 15.Over his lifetime, Dokolo amassed a sizable archive of contemporary art, which was widely reported to contain more than 3,000 works.
He was known for championing African artists, with names like Zanele Muholi, Wangechi Mutu and Aida Muluneh among those featured among in his collection.In 2005, he founded the Sindika Dokolo Foundation, which promoted arts and organized cultural events including the Luanda Triennial in Angola’s capital, where he spent much of the past two decades.
Dokolo was also known as the husband of Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and Africa’s richest woman with an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion, according to Forbes.At the time of his death, Dokolo and Dos Santos — whom he married in 2002 — were under investigation for money laundering and financial irregularities related to their business empire, which spanned oil, jewelry and telecoms.
In December, a court in Luanda froze and seized some of their assets, along with those of a business associate, according to Angola’s state news agency.An investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, known as the “Luanda Leaks,” alleged that Dos Santos and Dokolo had exploited family ties to the Angolan state to secure preferential deals and loans, which they managed through an opaque web of offshore holdings.
The couple consistently denied wrongdoing, with Dos Santos describing the allegations as a “very concentrated, orchestrated and well-coordinated political attack.”In the art world, Dokolo was renowned for helping African artists show their work at major Western venues and events, including the Venice Biennale.
He was also vocal in calling for European museums to return artworks and other items that had been looted during the colonial era.”Being African today means reading your own world through someone else’s eyes,” he told ArtNet News last year. “So this whole debate around restitution is a huge opportunity to address this issue and to work on it in a constructive way.
We want to take away the veil that the colonial time has left on us.”As news of Dokolo’s death broke, a number of high-profile Congolese figures took to social media to pay tribute.
Singer and rapper Kaysha tweeted to say that he had “just lost a brother,” describing his late friend as “a beautiful soul.” John Nsana Kanyoni, an important figure in the country’s mining and commodities industries, meanwhile described Dokolo as “brilliant and generous,” calling his death “a big loss for the DRC.”