A vibrant series by Thandiwe Muriu celebrates African culture and heritage

There’s an extensive and quite engaging explanation for each and every vibrant image in Thandiwe Muriu’s series Camo: it deciphers the hidden meanings, references and stories behind the objects, the print designs, the hairstyles. Each one is also paired with an African proverb, and one particularly caught my eyes. “However far a stream flows, it doesn’t forget its origin”. It seems a good metaphor of Muriu’s art. Self-taught, born and raised in Nairobi, Thandiwe managed to create her own universe, merging Kenyan history and tradition with her very own personal – and utterly contemporary – aesthetic.

Sculptural hairstyles, bright prints, everyday objects are transformed into something new and unexpected, and all of these elements come together into photographs that are a sort of transfiguration, portraits that become powerful symbols of beauty and pride.

The title itself is a hint of this symbolic process. the subjects do indeed camouflage into the background but, as she eloquently explains, only to make them stand out. “It’s a commentary on how as individuals, we can lose ourselves to the expectations culture has on us, yet there are such unique and beautiful things about every individual.”

Her work is on show until October 28, 2022, along with artists Derrick Ofosu Boateng and Hassan Hajjaj, for the last Venetian chapter of 193 Gallery, aptly titled “The Colors of Dreams”. Here, we deep-dive into Thandiwe’s world, discovering how she developed her unique style, the role that Vogue: played in deciding to become an artist and the influence of African glorious traditions of portraiture, hairstyles and print fabrics.

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