Art Dubai 2019: Wanja Kimani | Booth A15

20 - 23 March 2019

Consisting of video, sculpture and textiles, the work reflects on ideas of authorship and ownership, trauma and rehabilitation in relation to the construction and performativity of the black female body.  


Venus and I is a two-part work comprised of a video and sculpture, which draws upon Saidiya Hartman’s ‘Venus in Two Acts’. The text reflects on Venus, an enslaved black woman and her simultaneous presence and absence in the archive of Atlantic slavery. Venus and I (II), reflects on the silent violence of the archive where names are censored by virtue of power and interweaves her story to one in the present day, examining how structures in society such as patriarchy and capitalism perpetuate unequal power relations.


Our Feet So Tangled In The Bed Sheets Of Failed Redemption, Dust and Venus and I utilize fabrics often found to adorn domestic spaces. Dust is comprised of a number of white cotton doilleys, which are ornamental mats, often made from paper or fabric. They are used for decorative purposes and also act as a protective layer on polished or delicate surfaces. The piece explores the influence of time and how some memories of home and empire disintegrate whilst others become more vivid. In Venus and I, paper doilleys are crafted into flowers and encased in spheres that form a ball and chain. This symbol of ownership, torture and power, memorializes the absence of Venus whilst reflecting the way in which expectations within private spaces can disenfranchise women’s role in public spaces today.


Our Feet So Tangled In The Bed Sheets Of Failed Redemption embodies the artists’ experience and celebrates the female body as a carrier of knowledge, vulnerability and resilience. The natural material, barkcloth, is made by beating strips of fibrous inner bark into sheets. It carries signs of wear, in the same way that our gendered bodies carry our history through actions inflicted through choice or coercion.


Collectively, the works reflect and celebrate the present by creating an immersive installation of works that honour the female body as a site and gatekeeper of knowledge.