Wangechi Mutu’s Family Tree

Book Section

Listen to Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan author and winner of the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing, commenting after an encounter with Wangechi Mutu’s art. “Your power to rearrange what has been presented to control you is your powerful weapon,” he explains, “for you can make what you want with your world.” While Wainaina implicitly nods to a plural “you,” believing “us” able to transform the world, he refers directly to Mutu’s resourceful invention of composite portraits of the metaphorical “we” that she continually reforms in images, objects, and actions. Mutu works in every medium to invent this hybrid, from drawing, painting, and collage to sculpture, installation, performance, and film. She cuts into what separates us with the precision of a surgeon before suturing our reconstruction from fragile visual slivers of the wounded family of humankind, already fragmented, deformed, and traumatized. This essay is about Mutu’s two-decades-long visual analysis of world culture and its planetary rootedness in racial, sexual, economic, and national divides, war, and the violence of privilege; it is about Mutu’s refusal to accept as invincible the conventions of otherness culturally naturalized to isolate and conquer; it is about her exacting reconstruction of shared states of collective subjectivity and cultural agency; and it is about her effort to “reclaim,” in her words, “an imagined future.”

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Stiles, K

Cited Editors

  • Schoonmaker, T

Published Date

  • 2013

Book Title

  • Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey

Published By

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 978-0938989363