Kimathi Mafafo : Ebullience

22 February - 16 March
  • Kimathi Mafafo

  • Kimathi Mafafo

    Kimathi Mafafo

    Kimathi Mafafo (b. 1984) is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice ranges from embroidery and oil painting to installation. Mafafo obtained a National Diploma in Fine Arts from the College of Cape Town in 2007 and a National Diploma in Film and Video from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2016. Born in the semi-arid Kimberley in the Northern Cape of South Africa, Mafafo questions historical stereotypes around gender inequality in Africa. She primarily focuses on celebrating the black female and depicting abstracted forms typically surrounded by verdant imagery, characterised by lush greenery and sensuous drapery that are far removed from the dusty mining town where she grew up. She has recently organized a group of Capetonian woman into an informal traditional embroidery society. 
  • Solo exhibitions include (Upcoming) Ebullience, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London (2024); Wandering in the Unknown World, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, Berlin, Germany (2023); Kgolagano – A Covenant, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa (2022); Gestures from The Awakened Mind, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London, UK (2021); Embolden, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa (2019); Solo Presentation, at Investec Cape Town Art Fair, EBONY/CURATED (2018); CITCC, Cape Town, South Africa (2018); Alone in Spring, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa (2017); Withdrawn, World Art, Cape Town, South Africa (2015).
    Group exhibitions include (Upcoming) Soulscapes, curated by Lisa Anderson, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, UK (2024); New Wave Art Wknd, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, West Palm Beach, USA (2023); Hiatus, EBONY/Curated, Cape Town, South Africa (2023); An Endless Night, curated by Anelisa Mangcu, The Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa (2023); Norval Foundation’s 6th Collectors’ Focus: The Kilbourn Collection, Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa (2023); Talking Threads, Ode to the Maker: Embroidery WereldMuseum, Rotterdam, Netherlands (2023); EXPO Chicago, EBONY/CURATED, Chicago, USA (2023); Art Dubai, with Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery,  Dubai, UAE (2023); Investec Cape Town Art Fair, EBONY/CURATED, South Africa (2023); Also Known As Africa (AKKA), EBONY/CURATED, Paris, France (2022);  Diversity, Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch, South Africa (2022); Art Paris, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, Paris (2022); Geleceg(n)iDokumak, CerModern Museum, Ankara, Turkey (2022); (IM)MATERIALITY, This Is Not A White Cube, Lisbon, Portugal (2022); Investec Cape Town Art Fair, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa (2022); A Very Loop Street Summer, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa (2021); Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt, FNB Art Joburg, Open City, Keyes Art Mile, Rosebank, South Africa (2021); 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, EBONY/CURATED, London, UK (2021); Threads, The Duende Art Project, Monastery of the Zwartzusters, Antwerp, Belgium (2021); Presentation with This Is Not a White Cube, Lisbon, Portugal (2021); Facing the Sun, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, Schloss Goerne, Germany (2021); Knotted Ties, Lobby Gallery, Christie’s New York, USA (2021); 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair (Virtual Representation), EBONY/CURATED, New York, USA (2021); In (the) Loop, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa (2021); Devil’s in The Details, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London, UK (2020); FNB Art Joburg, Johannesburg, South Africa (2020); Intersect Chicago online edition of SOFA Expo, Chicago, USA (2020); 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Nando’s & Spier Arts Trust, London, United Kingdom (2020); Feminist Utopia, curated by Anelisa Mangcu, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa (2020); LATITUDES Art Fair (Virtual Representation), EBONY/CURATED, Johannesburg, South Africa (2020); 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, EBONY/CURATED, New York, USA (2020);  Investec Cape Town Art Fair, EBONY/CURATED, South Africa (2020); Angel, St Antoine Church, in association with Muse Contemporary, Istanbul, Turkey (2019); Botanica II, curated by Adele van Heerden for Art B Gallery, Bellville, South Africa (2019); Textile, curated By Amy Pike For Dyman Gallery, Stellenbosch, South Africa (2019); Filling in the Gaps, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2019); Connections, Greatmore Studios, Cape Town, South Africa (2019). 
    Highlights and collections 
    Kimathi Mafafo was finalist for the Ares Art Prize (2022) and the recipient of the Norval Foundation Sovereign Art Prize (2022). Kimathi Mafafo's work can be found in various international collections which include The Bunker Artspace Collection, Palm Beach, Florida, USA; Kilbourn Collection, Cape Town, South Africa; William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberly South Africa; Standard Bank Corporate Art Collection, Johannesburg, South Africa; Africa First Collection, Israel; IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; The Art Bank of South Africa, Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein, South Africa; The Irma Stern Museum, The University of Cape Town; Foundation H Museum, Antananarivo, Madagascar; Jiminez / Constantine Trust, Puerto Rico; Euston Capital Collection, USA; The House of KOKO, London, UK; Spiers Arts Trust, South Africa; Nelson Mandela Art Museum in Gqeberha (FKA Port Elizabeth); Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch, South Africa; OLYM Collection, Belgium, France.
  • Ebullience


    Woven portraits of illuminated women appear in a swirl of flowers and foliage,  colourful patterns and textures. These delicately embroidered works are representations of what South African artist Kimathi Mafafo describes as ‘a state of ebullience’, a feeling of joy and energy that is connected specifically for her to feminine power and liberation. Bringing together a bold series of new works that were created in collaboration with women that Mafafo has trained in weaving, her latest exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery on Tanner Street in London serves as a joyous celebration of sisterhood and self-love.
    Mafafo considers each of her woven works to be part of an ongoing and evolving tapestry that responds to her personal experiences but also to the world around her. This latest series was inspired by her observations of a ‘brave new world in which women are and have reclaimed spaces for themselves to be fully alive’ and her own attempts to understand what that means as an artist, a woman and a mother. As she explains, ‘My daughter is coming into her womanhood in a world that looks very different from the one I grew up in. In order to raise her in the spirit of the feminine freedom I believe in, I am having to unlearn and relearn some of the lessons I was taught about my body growing up.’
    In a trio of portraits, we encounter a vision of this newly liberated woman rising up from within a maelstrom of plants and fabrics. In one, her eyes are closed in an expression of bliss as she flicks back her braids and basks in the sunlight, in another her head is lowered as if lost in deep contemplation and in the third she is almost entirely consumed by a swirl of silky ribbons in soft shades of pink and gold. A recurring motif in all three of these works, but also throughout Mafafo’s practice, is a loosely circular shape, which appears here in multiples, reminiscent of cells dividing, or else as kind of cocoon around the woman, recalling an egg or a uterus – a symbol of fertility and rebirth. It is also a reference to the circular nature of life and the ways in which knowledge is passed from generation to generation.
  • This idea of exchange is fundamental to Mafafo’s practice. For the past three years, she has been working with two women whom she trained in embroidery and while the compositions are the artist’s own, each woman is provided with the space to express their individuality through the stitches that they make. This results in richly layered surfaces that speak of feminine spaces and conversations. In one work, in particular, we see this dynamic represented through three female figures dancing around one another, their limbs overlapping to create a kind of hybrid, collective body. It is the first time Mafafo has depicted more than one figure, perhaps marking a shift away from interiority, but also paying homage to the women that she works with and that surround her, both in the past and the present.
    Elsewhere, the exhibition’s title piece, Ebullience, depicts a goddess-like figure with arms and legs outspread in a pose of pure joy and openness. Beneath her is a male figure, his back turned away from the viewer as he reaches his arms up in a gesture of worship or embrace. As with all of the works in the series, it is a deeply sensual piece, but the experience of sensuality comes from within the woman herself rather than in relationship to the man. In other works, this same kind of pleasure is realised through a closeness to nature – the feeling of sunlight on the skin, being enveloped in a wild landscape, lost in a tangle of plants and flowers – or other women. For Mafafo, these are the key elements of female empowerment, allowing women to feel safe and supported in expressions of both vulnerability and confidence.
    As she explains: ‘Pleasure activism (or self-love) advocates the idea that seeking and embracing pleasure is both a fundamental human right and a powerful tool for societal transformation. When we find ourselves at this intersection, we are able to embark on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance, understanding that our personal joy and satisfaction are valid and essential components of a fulfilling life.’
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