South African artist Kimathi Mafafo’s bold, new collection of textile works invite audiences into a vibrant, tactile landscape where expressive hand gestures float amidst the verdant foliage and sensual female figures emerge between blooming floral forms. Gestures from the Awakened Mind, the artist’s first solo exhibition with Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, celebrates the liberated black female body and the power of the collective while also exploring art’s ability to offer space for healing and contemplation.
Mafafo’s practice is centred around black female empowerment both in terms of the compositions she creates and her working processes. While each scene is inspired by her personal experiences, memories and emotion states, the pieces are created collaboratively, reflecting Mafafo’s belief in art as a tool for connection and communication. Originally trained as a painter, she learnt the art of embroidery from a talented Cape Town-based, Ghanian tailor, before going on to train two women whom she works with on an ongoing basis. “One woman is from Zimbabwe and the other is Xhosa [a South African ethnic group], which creates an interesting dynamic within the work,” she says. “I give them the freedom to express themselves and develop their own style.” Crucially, the work also provides these women with financial support and a creative form of self-expression, allowing them to transcend traditional gender stereotypes that continue to be upheld in many African communities. As such, each stitch becomes a mark of defiance as well as an assertion of strength, unity and female liberation.