Have you heard about Wangechi Mutu?

Camille Paley

Extra Credit

Wangechi Mutu is a revolutionary contemporary artist that was born in Kenya, Africa. She is currently based out of New York City, where she works on her innovative Mylar collage drawings. Her pieces include a multitude of materials including paint, pornographic imagery, and pictures of ravenous animals. Mutu’s multimedia pieces are considered to be a commentary on culture and society, focusing on the corrupt facets of Western civilization.

I became fascinated by Wangechi Mutu’s art when I saw her exhibit “This You Call Civilization?” in 2010 when I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario. While her colossal collages are extremely enrapturing because of their beauty and intricate details, the closer one looks, the more disturbing the image becomes. One piece that exemplifies this strange juxtaposition is Le Noble Savage. In this particular work an African American woman composed of flowers and wild animals proudly raises an exotic plant above her head. This image illustrates the perspective of many Western cultures and the idea that Africa is often perceived as a desolate landscape overran by lions, snakes, and other deadly creatures. In other words, it demonstrates how Africa is often idealized and romanticized in the notion of Otherness or Exoticism.

All of Wangechi Mutu’s art has an explicit message and meaning behind the plethora of imagery. While it is clear Mutu utilizes clippings of pornographic scenes to exemplify racial injustice in history and the exploitation of African American women, she also, more subtly, raises issues of war. When Mutu was asked why the theme of war is not readily delineated in her work she responded, “I think it’s because it is still one of the toughest things to admit to ourselves and it is happening right now and we are in it.” Wangechi Mutu is a valuable asset to Contemporary Art and if you have not seen her work you should definitely check it out!

Sources:

“Interview with Wangechi Mutu.” Interview by Aimee Reed. Daily Serving. 12 Apr. 2010. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2012. <http://dailyserving.com/2010/04/interview-with-wangechi-mutu/&gt;.

Moos, David, and Mutu, Wangechi. Wangechi Mutu: This You Call Civilization? Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2010. Print.

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