Onghulungubu Hai Pwa Makiya – Elders (grandmothers) always have wise things to say, 2019, mixed media on canvas mounted on board, 61 × 45 cm (24 × 17 3/4 in)
A self-taught artist whose practice spans painting, photography and performance, Mekondjo’s works on canvas utilize a variety of techniques and media, including embroidery, resin and, notably, the use of mahangu grain – a widely grown Namibian food staple. Much of her work draws from her heritage as an Oukwanyama woman born in exile, as a way to unpack and critique Namibia’s recondite colonial past. Referencing photographic archives and highlighting the continuing erasure of long-standing Namibian cultural practices and languages, she explores notions of history and identity, following closely the recovered narratives of those forced into exile during the twenty-three-year-long Namibian War of Independence (1966 – 89), many of whom experienced stigmatization for their perceived status as foreigners. Mekondjo uses portraiture to reach into the past, paying homage to her ancestral line, while delicate botanical renderings represent a reach towards the future, exploring themes of fecundity and continuity. In this work, a veiled woman, her features faded and obscured, is surrounded by luminous golden lines. The painting invokes an old Oukwanyama proverb to further the artist’s exploration of the cycles of narration, erasure and grief.
This text is adapted from Phaidon’s publication 'African Artists: From 1882 to Now', with introduction by Chika Okeke-Agulu and glossary by Joseph L Underwood.
As featured in the New York Times, ARTnews, Colossal, Metropolis and New York Magazine’s The Strategist - the book is a groundbreaking A-Z survey of the work of over 300 modern and contemporary artists born or based in Africa.
Latitudes Co-Founder, Lucy MacGarry consulted on the selection process for the artists featured within the publication.
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