North Korea’s Mansudae Art Studio leaves its marks

Last updated:

Angola - Agostinho Neto Mausoleum, Luanda

Angola – Agostinho Neto Mausoleum, Luanda, photo: David Stanley from Nanaimo, Canada, Memorial Dr. Antonio Agostinho Neto (19882325368), CC BY 2.0

Published: December 1, 2017

Last updated:

North Korea’s art export

Artwork from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has always been a trademark for modern socialist realism. Although North Korea is well known for being the most secretive nation in the world, the largely unknown nation is certainly not shy when it comes to publicizing their statues, monuments, grand festivals, and celebrations. In particular, a North Korean based construction company known as Mansudae Overseas Project, has been designing fine art for decades, helping art to become one of North Korea’s most important and most successful exports. While many other North Korean barriers remain up, fine art from the country has managed to make its way to foreign countries that are located as far away as Africa.

About Mansudae Overseas Project

Established in 1959, the Pyongyang based art studio has a total of 4,000 workers, 1,000 of whom are highly skilled artists. The Mansudae Overseas Project has handled so much work over the years that it is currently classified as one of the largest and most successful art production studios in the world. The studio used to operate under the guidance of then-leader Kim Jong-Il who was known to have a deep and keen interest in art and theater performance.

The outside of the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, North Korea

The outside of the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, North Korea, photo: Nicor, Propaganda at Mansudae Art Studio, CC BY-SA 3.0

Different departments inside the studio

The Mansudae Overseas Project features many departments, making it the most prominent and well-known studio in North Korea. Some of the departments include woodcutting, ceramics, painting and of course sculptures. Although the studio has helped to create monuments such as the Monument to the Founding of the Korean Workers Party1 all over the country, it is the international commissions that the studio is most well known for.

International exports since the mid-1970s

Since the mid-1970s, the international chapter of The Mansudae studio has been offering cheap labor for the creation of outstanding and huge monuments such as the African Renaissance Monument in Senegal, as well as the Heroes Acre war monument in Namibia. The Mansudae Overseas Project has managed to attract a steady list of international clients although Germany is the only country in Europe that has ever commissioned the studio to create a monument (Frankfurt’s Fairy Tale Fountain).

Conclusion

Although The Mansudae Overseas Project has earned an estimated 160 million US dollars in the last 10 years, the studio has been criticized for poor working conditions that it exposes workers to and the low pay. The artists who work steadfastly do not get any returns as money from art sales is re-directed to the North Korean government. Additionally, some artists have criticized some of the monuments claiming that they are a little too ‘North Korean’ for their liking.

Videos: Interviews with artists in Mansudae Art Studio

1 min 17 sec

2 min 39 sec

Sculptures

In Angola
In Benin
In Botswana
The Mansudae Overseas Project - Botswana - The Three Dikgosi Monument

Botswana – The Three Dikgosi Monument, photo: US Army Africa, Three Dikgosi Monument – March 2010, CC BY 2.0

In Cambodia
In Democratic Republic of the Congo
In Ethiopia
The Mansudae Overseas Project - Ethiopia - By Andrew Moore from Johannesburg, South Africa (Statue - Tiglachin Monument (1984)) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ethiopia – Tiglachin Monument, 50m, errected in 1984 in Addis Ababa, photo:
Andrew Moore from Johannesburg, South Africa, Statue at Tiglachin Memorial, CC BY-SA 2.0

In Germany
The Mansudae Overseas Project - Germany - Frankfurter Märchenbrunnen, Foto Wikipedia | dontworry | CC BY-SA 3.0

Frankfurter Märchenbrunnen, Frankfurt, Germany, photo: dontworry, Theaterbrunnen-ffm001, CC BY-SA 3.0

In Mozambique
The Mansudae Overseas Project - Mozambique - Maputo-Machel-Cathedral, Independence Square, Maputo, constructed in 2011, Cornelius Kibelka

The Mansudae Overseas Project – Mozambique – Maputo-Machel-Cathedral, Independence Square, Maputo, constructed in 2011, photo: Cornelius Kibelka from Berlin, Germany, Samora Machel statue 2011, Maputo, Mozambique (23782903242), CC BY-SA 2.0

The Mansudae Overseas Project - Mozambique - Maputo-Machel-Cathedral, Independence Square, Maputo, constructed in 2011, Fritz Joubert

Mozambique – Maputo-Machel-Cathedral, Independence Square, Maputo, constructed in 2011, photo: Fritz Joubert, Maputo-Machel-Cathedral, CC BY-SA 4.0

In Namibia
Namibia - Independence Memorial Museum, Windhoek, inaugurated 2014

Namibia – Independence Memorial Museum, Windhoek, inaugurated 2014, photo: Diego Delso, Museo de la Independencia, Windhoek, Namibia, 2018-08-04, DD 08, CC BY-SA 4.0

In Senegal
Senegal - African Renaissance Monument (Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine), Dakar

Senegal – African Renaissance Monument (Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine), Dakar, photo: Peal1903, Monument de la Renaissance africaine, CC BY 3.0

In Zimbabwe
The Mansudae Overseas Project - Zimbabwe - National Heroes Acre, By Gary Bembridge (Flickr- Heroes Acre, Harare, Zimbabwe) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 2

Zimbabwe – National Heroes Acre, photo: CC BY 2.0 by Tips For Travellers

The Mansudae Overseas Project - Zimbabwe - National Heroes Acre, By Gary Bembridge (Flickr- Heroes Acre, Harare, Zimbabwe) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Zimbabwe – National Heroes Acre, photo: CC BY 2.0 by Tips For Travellers

More

More North Korea

Related works

Related readings
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monument_to_Party_Founding
Discover more ..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*


Stay in touch

We would love to keep the conversation going.

Please join us on Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram.

Want inspiration in your inbox?