Recent Work by Manyaku Mashilo
From 1 to 29 August 2020, 99 Loop Gallery Cape Town will present recent work by South African artist Manyaku Mashilo.
Dedicated to the act of cherishing lineage, Manyaku Mashilo creates otherworldly re-imaginings with precise linework. In these drawings, Mashilo develops her ongoing exploration of her own form of cartographic portraits. Her iconic portraits capture the self, representing a black, queer community cloaked, clothed and bathed in celestial cartographies. The enmeshed figures perform a multiplication of mappings piecing together dimensions of time, place and space, offering the land and the body as the source of a complex question of spiritual identity.
Growing up in a strict religious community, Mashilo points to religion which cut off accessibility to other forms of spiritual practice. The portraits serve as a record of the many conversations and intimate retellings of religious and spiritual memories, sounds and practices which connect contemporary urban individuals to their ancestors.
“The child in each of us knows paradise. Paradise is home. Home as it was or home as it should have been. Paradise is one’s own place, one’s own people, one’s own world, knowing and known, perhaps even loving and loved. Yet every child is cast from paradise – Into growth and new community, into vast, ongoing change.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower
Cloaked in their own ancestral time, each individual is framed by the architecture of rooms, windows and arches as portals or paths which challenge the logic of space to depict spiritual existence within other worlds. *Re Latetśe lena* – the titles serve as an invitation to a journey, or a guide for the artist as they find their own spiritual path.
Mashilo’s cartographies describe earthly landscapes and its matter, and expand into celestial patterns, telling of the growth of cosmological knowledge. We could identify constellations, fingerprints, tree rings and biological matter as they tear, move and reshape themselves; asking us, *How can we think about our humanity as a birthmark of identity in the environment? How do we open new definitions of time and the environment to consider the spiritual and the ancestral as somatic forms?*
If Afrofuturists reference science fiction and technology as the route to time travel, Mashilo places spiritual practices as the route to travel between times and to connect past, present and future.
-Text written by Tammy Langtry
Manyaku Mashilo, born (1991) Limpopo, South Africa, currently living and working in Cape Town, is a self-taught multidisciplinary artist who creates mixed media, paper-based drawings and works. Portraits, self-portraits, and inspirations from cartography play an important role in Mashilo’s works: they are immediately recognisable as Africa, harnessing aesthetic traditions from African beadwork, sculpture, line work and body modification practiced by the ethnic groups and cultures of its diaspora.
Mashilo’s works offer a perspective into self-representation, desire, geography and spirituality. For Mashilo, it is important to visualize black identities with agency, compassion and humanity, and create an accurate archive of who we are and how we choose to identify as the black youth of today. Being mainly a figurative artist, Mashilo aims to capture intimate settings and use these as a gateway to ponder the complexities of this young black existence. The abstract environment built around her figures and sometimes as the figure gives suggestions to a place, mood, and emotion only accessible beyond this realm.
The realism in her work is reserved for the faces; her figures are instantly recognisable, yet their geographical locations are unknown, and their bodies are not confined and constricted by gender. Recognisable hints of traditional African cultures (the beads, draped cloth, piercings, and thousands of tiny pen markings that remind us of scarification) are symbols, rather than realistic touches of detail, which transport these identities to a place beyond time, lending them an immortal quality. Circles are used in all aspects of Mashilo’s work, either in endless jittered repetitions to produce textures or as large geometries that depict either adornment or the galaxy. The circles are there to remind us, lest we forget, that the power Mashilo documents is celestial.
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