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CINTHIA SIFA MULANGA

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga (b. 1997, Lubumbashi, DRC) was initially trained as a printmaker but soon gravitated towards painting and collage - the mediums that have come to define her practice. 

The core focus of Mulanga’s art is to challenge the representation of Black female subjects by investigating the individual’s relationship with space. Space works on multiple levels in Mulanga’s artworks; on the one hand, it represents the space itself. On the other, it is symbolic as an extension of the individual. The space embodies the human, morphing into an independent protagonist. As is the case with different facets of the human soul, these multi-spaces exist in one moment, inviting one to reflect and interact with them if and when they are ready. It is in these liminal moments that Cinthia Sifa Mulanga highlights the nuances and complexities of a Black woman's identity in today’s world. 

Mulanga developed a fascination with the radical self-acceptance and self-confidence that Black women exude despite the systems of white patriarchy that bear down heavily on the conditions set for Black women in accruing visibility, success and confidence. Typically, the artist juxtaposes several different women in her paintings, highlighting the complexities of female identity and the stream of varying consciousnesses that occupy a single space, identity or moment in time. As such, her paintings also operate as multi-perspectival portraits. 

This polyphonic character is amplified through the introduction of additional female subjects via the inclusion of painted or collaged artworks on the walls of the rooms occupied by her subjects. These images of women, typically sourced from popular culture or the history of western painting, serve as a reminder of how the strictures of the female gender and beauty are reinforced and bear down on the artist’s subjects. In this way, Mulanga is in conversation with the tradition of western painting, challenging the absence of Black female subjects and the representation of women at the hands of male artists.

The visual references and influences in Mulanga’s oeuvre are largely rooted in her adopted home of South Africa, where she grew up and trained as an artist. At times, Mulanga references well-known artworks produced by her South African contemporaries. They are intended as tributes to their work, and playful acts of recontextualisation. This referential element is also driven by Mulanga’s own desire to plot spaces beyond her reach or that of her viewers. This is further complemented by furniture and decorative pieces that evoke aspirational lifestyles advanced by decor magazines. The clothing and dress that define Mulanga’s subjects are equally important, particularly as they represent their status or identity. The artist has further cemented this sartorial link through collaborations with the iconoclastic South African brand L’MAD and Alessandro Michele, designer of the Gucci Diana tote bag. From this perspective, the complex pictorial planes that Mulanga creates are like vision boards wherein she presents ideal lifestyles enjoyed by Black women, as envisioned by a capitalist society.

Artwork above: Cinthia Sifa Mulanga, Elements - In Her Finest, 2022, Mixed Media on stretched canvas

Journey from interiority: Cinthia Sifa Mulanga’s ‘In The Becoming’

Anyone who has sat in the backseat of a Quantum sandwiched between a dimpled elbow guarding a bucket of KFC on one side, and the sharp hip bone of a day labourer on the other, knows that it is easy to feel small in a taxi. As your stop approaches, you second-guess the volume at which you should speak; you doubt your ability to project, and most of all: you wonder about the authenticity of your accent.

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ANA Spotlight: Cinthia Sifa Mulanga

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga is a talented Congolese artist whose work has been gaining recognition in the art world. 

Artist CV

Solo exhibitions

2023 Embrace: A Path to Growth and Contentment, Bode Projects, Berlin

2022 In The Becoming, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2021 Intimate Spaces, African Arty in partnership with Latitudes Online, Casablanca, Morocco

Group exhibitions

2023 When we see us curated by Koyo Kouoh, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa

2023 Finalists Exhibition, Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa

2022 Shout Plenty curated by Princess Ayoola and Jana Terblanche, African Artist Foundation Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria

2021 ‘I love who you are, I love who you ain’t’ curated by Wunika Mukan, Bill Brady Gallery, Miami, USA

2021 Mother of Mankind curated by Adora Mba, House of Fine Art, London, UK

2021 A Force for Change presented by UN Women, Agora Gallery, New York, USA

2020 liminality in infinite spaces curated by Azu Nwagbogu, Lagos, Nigeria

2020 Eclectic Edition, The Art Room Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2020 The Human Experience curated by Keneilwe Mokoena, The Project Space, Johannesburg, South Africa

2018 animal in distress presented by JSE Deutsche Bank at Graham's Fine Art, Johannesburg, South Africa

Art Fairs

2023 RMB Latitudes, Johannesburg, South Africa

2023 Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Bode Projects, Cape Town, South Africa

2022 Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Botho Space, Cape Town, South Africa

2021 AKAA Fair Paris, African Arty, Paris, France

2021 London Art Fair: Edits, African Arty in partnership with Latitudes Online, London, UK

2019 Turbine Art Fair, Louis Khela Maqhubela & Douglas Portway tribute exhibition presented by Artist Proof Studio and Strauss & Co., Johannesburg, South Africa

Awards and Merits

2023 Norval Sovereign African Art Prize finalist, South Africa

2022 British Fashion Council's New Wave Creatives, UK

2019 First prize: the Louis Khela Maqhubela & Douglas Portway tribute, presented by Artist Proof Studio and Strauss & Co., South Africa

Publications 

2023 Koyo Kouoh, When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting, Thames & Hudson, UK

Archive

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
Before the Oasis I, 2022

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
Before the Oasis II, 2022

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
Before the Oasis III, 2022

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
Preference until Proven Standard I, 2022

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
The library, 2021

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
Preference until proven standard I, 2022

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
With Desire, 2021

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
Drops on your Garments, 2021

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
Self-sureness, 2021

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
Splendor, 2022

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga
Performing or acting confidence I, 2022

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga, Unbothered, 2021

Further Reading In Articles

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