Widely known for her elaborate collages that explore and subvert cultural preconceptions of the female body and the feminine. Wangechi Mutu’s practice has been described as engaging in its own unique form of myth-making. This exhibition, Nguva na Nyoka meaning “Sirens and Serpents” in Kiswahili presents her latest body of collage, video and sculptural works.
Drawing on such diverse references as East African coastal mythologies – particularly of nguvas, or water women – gender and racial politics, Western popular culture, Eastern and ancient beliefs and autobiography, in her work Mutu proposes worlds within worlds, populated by powerful hybridised female figures.
The artist’s latest collage-paintings are defined by a shift away from her much-documented use of Mylar, incorporating painterly techniques alongside her signature construction of images comprised of deftly cut-out and collaged forms. In addition, Mutu’s visual language is further enriched in these works by her use of unexpected materials such as tea, batik fabrics, synthetic hair, Kenyan soil, feathers, and sand, amongst other media – many of which are imbued with their own cultural significations.
The interweaving of fact with fiction and female characterisations that co-exist in various cultures underpin this new body of work. The exhibition will also feature a video, entitled Nguva, a multi-tiered performance featuring Mutu’s mesmeric eponymous role: a mysterious acquatic character who emerges from the sea onto land and wanders, restless, vicious and curious.
Wangechi Mutu: Nguva na Nyoka, until 19 December, Victoria Miro, 1 6 Wharf Rd, London N1 7RW. For more information visit www.victoria-miro.com.
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1. Wangechi Mutu, Killing you softly, 2014.