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Friday, October 07, 2022

‘We’ve been told it’s a trend’: How Sandra Mujinga navigates the mixed feelings of being a black artist on the rise artnet news

In a 1987 book by Octavia Butler Lilith’s BroodThe aliens genetically merge with humans, whose wars have devastated Earth, to form a new life form that is something other than human.

What does that new creature look like? This is the question that haunts the mind of Congolese-Norwegian artist Sandra Mujinga. When we recently met on a video call, she was in her studio in Oslo—and I realized we weren’t completely alone. On top of his shoulder stood two wrapped phantom-like companions. Their work was in progress. While we were talking, Mujinga sometimes pulled over a piece of stretch cotton she was working into a woven piece.

“I’m interested in world-building,” she said. “I’ve always insisted on having multiple things happen at the same time.” Indeed, along with being an artist, she is also a DJ, a writer, and apparel producer, which all factor into her performances.

“When I started working with art, it was not my ambition to fit into the art world or get a gallery within a set amount of time,” she said.

But his materially innovative works, which poignantly speak to black representation, surveillance in society, and humanist and Afrofuturist ideas, have found an eager audience. Currently, he has a solo presentation at the Munch Museum in Oslo, and later this year will have solo exhibitions at Malmö Konsthalle in Sweden and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin (the latter is part of the Preis der Nationalgalerie, the prestigious prize for art . Germany). Mujinga won the award last year.

'We've been told it's a trend': How Sandra Mujinga navigates the mixed feelings of being a black artist on the rise artnet newsSpectral Keepers, The Approach, London, 2021. Photo by Plastics. Courtesy Artist, Croy Nielsen, Vienna & Approach, London” width=”1024″ height=”768″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Croy-Nielsen_Sandra_Mujinga_The_Approach_2021_installation_view_06-1024×768″ .jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Croy-Nielsen_Sandra_Mujinga_The_Approach_2021_installation_view_06-300×225.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022 /04/Croy-Nielsen_Sandra_Mujinga_The_Approach_2021_installation_view_06-50×38.jpg 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Croy-Nielsen_Sandra_Mujinga_The_Approach_2021_installation_view_view_0624.jpg , 1024px”/>

installation scene, spectral keepers, The Approach, London, 2021. Photo by Plastics. Courtesy Artists, Croy Nielsen, Vienna, and Approach, London.

Mujinga will soon head to Venice, where she will appear at the biennial’s main exhibition with 200 other artists, many of whom are women and speculate on the future.

“I’m very excited about it,” Mujinga said. “Cecilia” [Alemani] Really practical, and I always appreciate curators where you can talk about concepts, but also practical aspects like which nails to use.

Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mujinga grew up in Oslo with her parents and two siblings, which was not always easy.

“There’s this notion in Norway, which I find pretty terrifying about being a ‘good person.’ Norwegians are obsessed with ‘goodness,'” she said. “When something threatens that image, you enter a dangerous zone.”

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped to catalyze more direct and honest conversations about the realities of the black experience and discrimination, previously understood only as an American problem.

Installation scene of Sandra Mujinga at the Munch Museum in Oslo, 2022 Photo courtesy of Ove Kwik The artist, Kroy Nielsen, Vienna and Viewpoint, London

Installation scene of Sandra Mujinga at the Munch Museum in Oslo, 2022. Photo by Ove Kwikal. Courtesy Artists, Croy Nielsen, Vienna, and Approach, London.

Norway’s racial homogeneity was one reason why Mujinga’s family relocated to Nairobi for some time when Mujinga was 12 years old. “The older I get, the more I understand my mother’s decision to move on – she wanted to give us this experience of not always being each other. Even in Kenya, though, it was pretty clear that We were from the Congo,” she said.

Moving to the more international city of Berlin, Mujinga still found the art world too white. “I find more diversity outside of art venues,” she said, especially through the music scene. In Berlin, she connected with other Congolese people through her hairdresser.

The desire to be free from social shackles flows through his work. In his performances and videos, the notion of invisibility is often visible. Mujinga describes the word as a place of freedom. “Invisibility is also a place for rest,” she said.

Bhoot (2019).  installation scene "witch hunt," Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, 2020 Courtesy of the artist, Kroy Nielsen, Vienna and Approach, London

ghosting (2019). Installation view of “Witch Hunt,” Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, 2020. Courtesy of the artist, Kroy Nielsen, Vienna and The Approach, London.

Her most famous pieces are her large textile sculptures, the shadowy figures with hoods that stand high in the room. They do not have faces and their intentions – if they have – are incomprehensible. His presence is powerful, gentle, mysterious and a bit haunting.

In the Niue Nationalgalerie Prize, for example, a group of figures, titled The world remains Appear like Titans, made of carefully arranged dark robes steel. In another gallery, a draped form called watchdog of change Looks like a sunken ship or a dinosaur carcass in a terrifying green light. Everything trembles on the edge of being anthropomorphic.

The work evokes ominous feelings or astonishes depending on the viewer. Mujinga said his works explore ways of presenting people’s views on obscure subjects. “I am attracted to the fact of a person who is standing there, just taking up space and being present. What happens then?” he said. “People project things onto that figure. I’ve gotten — just as a black person wearing a hoodie who doesn’t have long hair — the idea of ​​being a creepy black man. I just existing that kind of projection on me. indicates.”

She quotes writer Claudia Rankin: “Because white people can’t police their imagination, black people are dying.”

'We've been told it's a trend': How Sandra Mujinga navigates the mixed feelings of being a black artist on the rise artnet newswatchdog of change (2021). Photo by Jens Zihe. Courtesy Artist, Croy Nielsen, Vienna & Viewpoint, London” width=”1024″ height=”717″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Croy_Nielsen_Sandra_Mujinga_Preis_der_Nationalgalerie_Photo_Jens_Ziehe_installation_view_02-1024×717″ 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Croy_Nielsen_Sandra_Mujinga_Preis_der_Nationalgalerie_Photo_Jens_Ziehe_installation_view_02-300×210.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022_Mujinga_Galerie_PhotoJens_Preis_Sandra_Mujinga -50×35.jpg 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Croy_Nielsen_Sandra_Mujinga_Preis_der_Nationalgalerie_Photo_Jens_Ziehe_installation_view_02.jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/>

watchdog of change (2021). Photo by Jens Zihe. Courtesy Artists, Croy Nielsen, Vienna, and Approach, London.

We discussed the “mob” to fix absenteeism or black actors in long-exclusive spaces. “There aren’t structures in place yet to support the person or keep them safe,” Mujinga said. “When people tell me I’m the ‘first black woman,’ I almost get scared… because it means there’s a reason there wasn’t anyone before me.”

It is unpleasant to constantly talk about the art world’s hyped moment of racial awareness. ,I think a lot about mental health and how to remain confident, because we can even be told that this is a trend now,” she said. “How does it affect your productivity when you have to take it into account?”

He hopes museums will do more to accommodate longstanding black attitudes in museums and galleries, not only through exhibitions and programming, but also by hiring a more diverse staff.

“A black woman working at an organization once came up to me and said, ‘I want to see the art you’re making at 60.’ That was a really beautiful comment to me,” she said. “Black actors should be getting old too.”

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