Today I was introduced to the inspirational work of Wangechi Mutu, an artist after my own heart.
Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu has trained as both a sculptor and anthropologist. Her work explores the contradictions of female and cultural identity and makes reference to colonial history, contemporary African politics and the international fashion industry. Drawing from the aesthetics of traditional crafts, science fiction and funkadelia, Mutu’s works document the contemporary myth making of endangered cultural heritage.
Wangechi’s work is extremely confronting. Her pieces are full of disjointed female body parts, mutilations, and amputations. Quite fitting because as an artist, she is not interested in ‘pretty’ pictures. The figures she creates:
are grotesquely marred through perverse modification, echoing the atrocities of war or self-inflicted improvements of plastic surgery. Mutu examines how ideology is very much tied to corporeal form. She cites a European preference to physique that has been inflicted on and adapted by Africans, resulting in both social hierarchy and genocide.
Through her extraordinary collages, she is able to speak to the different sociopolitical themes which I frequently engage with: race, gender, geography, history and beauty. In her words “females carry the marks, language, and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body.” As a result, her works underscore various aspects of the experience of femaleness by way of the body.
What a fascinating intersection of cultural analysis and fine art. Check Wangechi out at the Saatchi Gallery to learn more about her background, creative approach and exhibitions. She also appears in this month’s edition of Vogue magazine.