If you are in Sydney, Australia, before 15th August this year make absolutely certain you visit Wangechi Mutu’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Arts. Even if you are not an art lover, the MCA is worth visiting, located in the historic Rocks area and looking out on the bustling ferry terminal on the Harbour, directly opposite the iconic Opera House. A work of art on its own
Mutu, Kenyan-born, educated in England and America, now lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is making an international name as one of the most exciting and influential contemporary African artists. The exhibition, curated by the MCA’s Rachel Kent, shows the breadth of Mutu’s works which focuses on gender, race, globalisation and the lingering often bloody impact of post-imperialistic Africa, primarily through the women’s cultural perspective.
Mutu uses a variety of mediums, including pictures cut from magazines and materials others discard as waste, for her work which includes large installations combining dislocated female body parts and animals, or inanimate objects, creating hybrid organisms, part-human, part-imagination.
One of the rooms contains a collection of post card-sized collages which were amongst the first work she did after deciding to settle in New York. Living in a tiny shoe-box of an apartment, the collages the only kind of work she could physically create using photos cut from magazines.
By contrast, her more recent works are vast. Warm Tree, created mainly out of grey felt (the kind used in packing furniture but also reminiscent of the felt capes used to keep warm on cold African nights) and gaffer tape, looms over the entrance to one of the exhibition rooms, the trees under which the elders in the villages would sit. It has been blended with Suspended Playtime, where large balls made of plastic bags tied together with string, used by African children as footballs, dangle, like giant, slightly ominous, black seeds.
Blackthrones, towering black chairs are strangely menacing, predatory stick insects wrapped in gold; Perhaps The Moon Will Save Us, created out of worldly clutter has a deliciously satiric visual rider. But perhaps my favourite is Moth Women with the beautiful, ethereal, moth women, ceramic bodies, intricate leather wings, fluttering antenna, by four African lakes gouged out of the blackboard background, red from the blood of millions massacred during the various modern conflicts in countries like Rwanda.
The exhibition is free but closes on 14th August, 2013. Apologies for the poor pictures which don’t do the exhibition justice.