November 02, 2023 - November 05, 2023
Mona Taha and April Kamunde represent a generation of women artists who have developed and consolidated a practice rooted in their individual experiences of living and working on the continent. Stemming from autobiographical explorations, their practice sensibly and poetically explores the lived realities, challenges and victories they themselves and their peers in their respective communities pass through. In both artists’ work, an individually shaped feminist perspective is a key component. Through this perspective, not only themes concerning their female peers, but broader societal questions are being offered to the viewer to engage with.
In many of her recent works, Mona Taha uses the motion of leaping as a reference of progress, freedom, self-fulfillment. She explores the body, its motions and gestures to provide meaning and interpretation to herdrawings. Among other references, she looks at the character of Pearl Primus (1919 – 1994) – an African-American dancer, choreographer and anthropologist.
“While being interested in the journey of black women through history, I was intrigued by the character and story of Pearl Primus and decided to use her character in my work. She was a black woman from the early 20th century; this wasn’t a time for black women to excel in whatever field they were in. She used dance to express herself, talking about being oppressed as a woman and as a black woman. She used dance trying to learn about her African roots and to bring that knowledge back. In these works, I play around with collage, inks and natural dye from tea. I upcycle pieces from Garden Tea bags, a Ugandan brand. The works represent a leap of defiance, resistance and strength but also a story of the victory to overcome internalised beliefs about the black female body and mind. Using collage and water colour, I wanted to create memory of labour and glory. Through the variation in collage, I hope to show the inner turmoil of transition.” – Mona Taha
April Kamunde’s recent body of work explores meanings of rest and the pursuit of it, from a personal and feminist angle. The work is driven by personal reflection and response to feelings of weariness triggered by a rapidly changing world and the endeavor to live a successful and fulfilling life in fast-paced Nairobi, one of Africa’s megacities.
The works on show at Art X Lagos depict women in moments of rest and solitude, at times peaceful, but also conveying the sometimes difficult stage to disconnect and find truthful mental and physical rest. Her light-filled paintings convey a sense of softness and grace, grounding and rejuvenation. They almost evoke a sensual and tactile response from viewers as her figures feel the earth and grass beneath their bare feet and as their skin touches the soft fabrics of the Dera - a long Somali dress, and ubiquitous feature in this series.
The Dera is usually designed to fit loosely, giving ample room for aeration and movement. In Nairobi, it has grown in popularity, especially as loungewear. To Kamunde, the Dera serves as a “Do Not Disturb” sign for the women who wear it, signaling “me-time” and the reclamation of their energy. The natural fauna her women are placed into, serves as yet another antidote to, as well as withdrawal from their every-day performances of societal and cultural roles and expectations.
“I invite the audience to peer into the moments of pause and introspection being experienced by the women featured in the work. I explore what it looks like to choose one’s self, to take up space, to slow down and unburden one’s self in today’s demanding world.” – April Kamunde