The Congolese businessman and art collector Sindika Dokolo, who died aged 48 in a free-diving accident in Dubai last month, was buried at Brompton Cemetery yesterday during a six-hour televised memorial held in Luanda, Kinshasa and London.
His funeral mass, which was attended only by close family due to Covid restrictions, was held at Westminster Cathedral, though the ceremony was broadcast by the Angolan Zap TV Network, which was founded by Dokolo’s wife, Isobel dos Santos, whom he married in 2002.
In an eloquent eulogy, Dokolo’s eldest daughter, Hailee Dokolo, described her father’s efforts to repatriate art stolen from Africa. “You didn’t want to stop at being a collector, you became a patron and you continued your journey leading the fight for the restitution of the works to Africa,” she said. “Whatever their beauty or value may be, it’s not the restitution of the objects you searched for, it was to return to Africa its dignity, its history, its culture and its people. You wanted Africans, through their rediscovered work, to simply reclaim Africa.”
High profile politicians, actors and sportsmen and women also paid tribute to Dokolo during the memorial, which took place at an undisclosed location in Luanda and, in Kinshasa, at the National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where performances were given by the Congolese musician Lokua Kanza and the Belgian singer Alexia Waku, among others.
In a videoed tribute, the US stand-up comedian and actor Chris Tucker recounted a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to view a Congolese exhibit with Dokolo. “It was really deep, the knowledge that he gave me about lost African art and how much he cared about it was really powerful and touching,” Tucker said. “I know he will live on through his family, his friends and his art collection.”
In 2013, Dokolo established a foundation that uses a network of dealers, researchers and lawyers working in Brussels and London to scour the art market for African art for repatriation. The retired Cameroonian footballer Samuel Eto’o said he would make a donation to the foundation, adding: “We know how important the foundation of Sindika was and what important work he was doing for Africa. We would love to see his work continue to impact African culture.”
The US actor Samuel L. Jackson expressed his disbelief at Dokolo’s death, saying: “My Darling Sweet Brother, if it is true that you are gone, I mourn with a broken heart and will carry your kind smile with me forever. Rest In Peace.”
The British model Naomi Campbell sent a message saying: “Sindika was such a force of life that brought light and joy to all that knew him. He will be dearly missed.”
Scenes from the tightly guarded burial at Brompton Cemetery in West London were also broadcast as part of the memorial; Dokolo’s plot lies in the middle of the Grade II listed cemetery, where the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst is also buried. Premium path side locations cost £36,000.
It is understood Dokolo’s family chose London as the site of burial rather than Kinshasa, where Dokolo was born in 1972, as Dos Santos divides her time between Dubai and the UK where her children also attend school.
Earlier this year, Dokolo and Dos Santos both became embroiled in investigations into money laundering and embezzlement. Dos Santos, the daughter of José Eduardo Dos Santos, Angola’s former president, and the richest woman in Africa with an estimated fortune of more than $2bn, is accused of exploiting poverty-mired Angola, taking a cut of the country’s wealth and parking it abroad.
In January, following the publication of a vast investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) dubbed the Luanda Leaks, the Angolan government froze Dos Santos and Dokolo’s assets and bank accounts in a bid to to recover $1bn in state loans Dos Santos allegedly borrowed and failed to repay during her father’s term in office. Dos Santos and Dokolo vigorously denied any wrongdoing, claiming they had been made scapegoats of the Angolan government.
With a contemporary art collection numbering around 3,000 works, Dokolo was considered one of the biggest collectors of African art in the world, though it is not clear whether his art was targeted for seizure.
As for Dokolo’s death, Dubai police confirmed earlier this month there was no suspicion a “criminal act” had taken place.