WANGECHI MUTU: the contemporary artist from Kenya

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Wangechi mutu is a renowned contemporary artist who hails from Kenya but resides and works in Brooklyn, New York. she specializes on artwork such as sculptures, paper and mylar collages of different sizes as well as spot- installations. She focuses specifically on assemblage which mostly portrays woman physique to help establish gender characteristics and features. She derives her sources from inequitable artistic fragments, such as pornography, style, Journals and also the use of the paper work on coffee table for western viewers. In all her works, she uses a hand drawn and decorated female body to provide a trans-cultural analysis of the female identity as exemplified in the western values. The first part of this paper presents how Mutu’s work reflect ideas, themes and traditions informed by their heritage. The second part compares and contrasts Mutu’s artworks, the buildings, the architects, critics as well as the patrons.

How Mutu’s work reflect ideas, themes and traditions informed by their heritage.

Wangechi Mutu’s work is largely influenced by her heritage and her genuineness as an African woman working in the midst of present-day art domain. Her choice of collage alludes to Westerners understanding of a culture dominated by images from media outlets, flyers, commercials and quick news bulletin twenty-four hours a day. Her work also related to stereotypes and their influence on people (Wangechi, Trevor, Kristine, and Greg 50). She incorporates her experiences as a Kenyan female in the U.S to create awareness into her artistic workings of conventional pictures of black women in the diaspora. She does this since her colleagues in the West always described her as a rural African girl. Her knowledge in anthropology gives her skills on how to create ancient and cultural narratives through the use of artifacts.

She started making fake African relics out of garbage and found objects. She intentionally made their appearance murky and old so as to fit the interpretation of her white peers who always analyzed her work in relation to where she has come from. She knew that they would treat this as authenticity since she is an African (Wangechi 85). Her goal was to explore the deceit of stereotypes especially those related to femininity and ethnicity. Mutu ‘s collage emphasizes public as well as the African American customs found in Jazz.

In Preying Mantra Mutu creates a female character with crossed legs lying on a blanket erected between trees. The blanket is similar to a traditional Cuban fabric. The woman glares seductively to the audience with her right hand holding her head from behind. She is relaxed and her skin appears speckled by sunbeams (Wangechi and Tara 69). Both the tree and the woman body symbolizes myths associated with African culture including Mutu’s Kikuyu culture in Kenya. The woman also holds a green snake in her left hand. The snake is interconnected with Eve’s task in the Genesis narrative of the Bible. This delivers another cultural example for Wangechi’s works. The tree brings out the female figure thus emphasizing the associations between history and fiction. It also brings out the differences between African and American cultures.

In Histology of Different Classes of Uterine tumors, Mutu identifies the disease as a primitive and prophetically a disease originating from alien species. She creates a female figure that is controversially striking to bring out the impression of personality crisis in a world where culture and the place of origin define individuals (Wangechi, Trevor, Kristine, and Greg 53). Capturing the alteration of African culture, Mutu relates to present stereotypes to create a different people participating in the welfare of their countries whereas embracing their culture. Her pictures on uterine tumors symbolize cross- cultural association.

A comparison of artworks, the buildings, the architects, critics as well as the patrons.

The artworks of Wangechi Mutu comprises of a woman figure and use of collages. This is a similarity in all her works which brings out the aspect of femininity and collages. Just like Mutu, Melissa Meyer and Miriam Schapiro also uses collage in their artwork to portray the role of women in the society which was mainly domestic (Wangechi and Tara 75). The three artists protracted their artwork beyond female domestic sphere which encompassed activities such as sewing, earsplitting, hooking and quilting.

Criticism concerning the use of collage maintains that collage is ineffective strategy as far as critical art is concerned (Wangechi 87). Peter Burger maintains that collage smashes the modern understanding of art thus making it look like everyday life yet it is an autonomous realm. He does not recognize the collage’s ability to transform political and social activities. The claim that collage is anti-modern with the aim of destabilizing modern conception of art, it could be well-thought-out as post-modern. Nevertheless, Thomas Brockelman asserts that the decision bank on an individual’s understanding of modernization. According to Jameson’s view, collage is a pastiche which has contributed to the loss of its subversive potential. He goes on to explain that collage is indicative of a disjointed postmodern realm.

Works Cited

Wangechi, Mutu, and Tara McDowell. New Work: Wangechi Mutu., 2005. Print

Wangechi, Mutu, Trevor Schoonmaker, Kristine Stiles, and Greg Tate. Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey. , 2013. Print.

Wangechi, Mutu. A Shady Promise. Bologna, Italy: Damiani, 2008. Print

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