Art in the Diaspora

Wangechi Mutu Unveils New Monograph at Ford Foundation Talk, 2023#FREEFUTURE

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Wangechi Mutu discusses her new monograph at the Ford Foundation Talk, 2023. In conversation with Darren Walker, Ford Foundation’s president, Wangechi explains her process, inspiration, and deep-rooted connection to the Kenyan soil. Sticking to the theme,#Freefuture: Preventing Gender-Based Violence around the world, she reimagines a world where peace and equity reign.

The Cover page of Wangechi Mutu’s monograph .Image courtesy of Phaidon .

This is her first monograph with over 160 illustrations, unveiling her process and transformative journey. Her masterpieces, a fusion of paintings, sculptures, and collages, are imbued with materials that resonate with diverse cultural significance – tea, synthetic hair, Kenyan soil, feathers, and sand. These elements form a mesmerizing tapestry, merging truth with imagination and fashioning a singular mythology that defies conventions of classical history or mainstream culture.

Wangechi’s works are a strong testament to the strength and resilience of African women. In”The New Ones, Will Free Us,” for instance, Wangechi Mutu redefines the historical caryatid, traditionally confined to supporting roles in both Western and African art. Mutu’s feminist intervention liberates these figures from their traditional burdens within a Neoclassical facade, challenging conservative norms. Wangechi Mutu meticulously crafts each sculpture, infusing them with unique features and embellishments.

The New Ones Will Free Us by Wangechi Mutu. Image courtesy of Phaidon

She is inspired by customs practiced by high-ranking African women. The sculptures are simultaneously celestial and humanoid, capturing the essence of her artistic vision. Mutu intricately weaves elements like beaded bodices, circular necklaces, and lip plates into her sculptures, creating hybrid figures that exude authority and autonomy. In her monograph, she delves into these topics and more, exploring themes of sexuality, gender identity, and freedom.

The monograph’s significance extends beyond the artistic community; it’s a must-have for art institutions and artists alike. It encapsulates a powerful narrative of a Kenyan artist who has broken and redefined barriers. This book is a source of inspiration for emerging artists and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of challenges.

Wangechi Mutu’s first monograph is a journey through the mind and soul of a remarkable artist. It offers a profound understanding of her unique blend of fact and fiction. Furthermore, it cements her legacy as a trailblazer in the art world. In her monograph, she delves into these topics and more, exploring themes of sexuality, gender identity, and freedom. To purchase this book, check out the Phaidon website.

Author

Rose Mwikali Musyoki is a creative writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance from the University of Embu, Kenya, and is the founder of Bloom Inc, an art startup in Kenya. Currently, she works as a writer for Art News Africa.

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