[République Centrafricaine; formerly Ubangi Shari]
Country in central Africa, bordered by Chad and Sudan to the north, by Zaïre and the Congo to the south and by Cameroon to the west. The total area of the country is 622,894 sq. km and the total population 2,841,000 (UN estimate, 1989). The capital is Bangui. As the French colony of Ubangi Shari, the Central African Republic was part of French Equatorial Africa from 1903 to 1958. It gained full independence in 1960. From 1976 to 1979 the country was a self-declared ‘Empire’ under President Jean-Bedel Bokassa. The country is almost totally featureless semi-desert. The population are mainly descended from 19th-century immigrants who were escaping the turmoil caused by European and Arab slavers in the surrounding countries.
The Central African Republic’s best-known artist was the self-taught painter Clément-Marie Biazin (1924–81). Biazin left home at the age of 22, returning to Bangui only after 20 years of travelling throughout Central, West and East Africa. In the 15 years in which he was active as a painter Biazin completed between 500 and 600 works. Jean Kennedy describes his paintings as ‘spirited mandala-like panels framed by decorative linear patterns that give them the look of embroidery’ (Kennedy, p. 153). Biazin was the subject of a documentary by the French film maker ...