Look and Listen #23: The art of Wangechi Mutu

Today’s focus is on Kenyan multimedia artist Wangechi Mutu. I remember being completely captivated by her film installation, The End of Eating Everything, when it was on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, watching a woman walk up a hill carrying a heavy burden as things fall apart. Mutu’s work explores the experience of being a woman, and more specifically, a black woman, in this modern world. She grew up in Nairobi watching American movies and television, which presented few persons and images familiar to black, African audiences. This stunning underrepresentation made a profound impact and encouraged her to fill that gap with her art. Her work is organic and yet contains more than a hint of afrofuturism.

The first of the videos is from the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, and introduces us to The New Ones, will free Us, a set of cast bronze statutes commissioned by the museum to fill niches on the museum’s facade which had been left empty since the museum opened in 1872. These larger than life African women make a statement about the value of African art and its place in a cultural institution such as the Met.

The second video, from the Anderson Ranch Art Center, is an intimate interview with Mutu and a look at her collages and collage-watercolor hybrids. This is where she began her creative journey and it is fascinating and encouraging to hear her speak of that journey and of her creative homes in New York and Nairobi. What a splendid body of work!


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