With control of the Belgian Free State transferred from King Leopold to the Belgian republican government in 1908, all of Central Africa falls under the rule of European countries by the early twentieth century. As France, Belgium, Portugal, and (prior to 1918) Germany implement new political and economic structures to consolidate their control over Central Africa's immense resources. The exploitative abuses of Belgian colonial rule were experienced by local populations as especially brutal and traumatic. During and after the colonial era, African artists and musicians such as Samuel Fosso, Grand Kallé, and Cheri Samba incorporate European techniques into their own creative processes, producing works that address the friction between traditional and colonial/postcolonial ways of life and speak to the aspirations of the emerging urban class.
Europeans' increased exposure to African societies and material culture, fostered by museum expeditions and the rapidly developing field of anthropology, inspires artists from Pablo Picasso to the British Vorticists to explore new subjects and methods of visual representation. The imposition of colonial boundaries and governmental systems gives rise to developing national consciousness among many Central Africans, inspiring movements to achieve political independence and reclaim indigenous African identity, such as Mobuto Sese Seko's "authenticity" campaign and Tshibumba Kanda Matulu's series of paintings on Congolese history.