Nguva na Nyoka (Sirens and Serpents) by Wangechi Mutu | Review

The immense representation of the feminine, the political and the cultural is very palpable and striking in Wangechi Mutu’s latest exhibition entitled Nguva na Nyoka (meaning “Siren and Serpents” in Swahili). Staying true to the title, her collage paintings are of grotesquely deformed underwater creatures which screams surrealism with the contrasting elements of humans, animals and machines. They also manifest hyperbolism and diversity through the way she forced together an overload of materials, themes and references which you don’t ordinarily see together. Despite the initial jarring sense that her works present, they are both seductive and eerie all at once. 

The exhibition spans the two floors of Victoria Miro’s Gallery in London, showcasing the art works of this New York-based artist with Kenyan origins. Mutu uses a variety of media – mixing both textiles and art materials – to create her hybrid creatures with magazine cut-outs, watercolours, beads, feathers and fabrics. These distorted chimaeras do not only emulate the mythologic core of the exhibit’s theme, but their faces made up of big eyes and lips lifted from fashion magazines also satirise the stereotypes and preconceptions of women’s images and identities in the society. 

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Killing You Softly

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The spell of slam poetry and compulsion of art

“Prepare to be Varjacked!” This is how fellow artists in the performance scene describes or, more appropriately, warns the audience of writer and contemporary performer Paula Varjack. It refers to the idea of being hit with real and immediate impact with a certain act. “I’d like to kind of leave with something that I think has either a message or creates a certain feeling or makes you think afterwards.”

For more than 6 years now, this British-American performer has been working as a full-time artist and her works has taken a variety and hybrid of forms ranging from spoken words, monologues, devised performance, videography, audio-visual pieces, stories and poems. Mostly in London, Berlin and Washington DC, she has also been touring in different cities not only in the UK but also around Europe. 

Paula’s disposition of being from all the places and prancing around practically everywhere inspired the title of her latest two-month tour Always Back From Somewhere, which sees her performing in England, Belgium, Scotland, Germany and Denmark. The tour started on the 7th of October with the whole month spent guesting in events around London and eventually the rest of the UK. With half of the tour remaining, she’ll be spending most of November outside the country culminating to her last performance on the 21st of the month at South Bank Centre in London as part of the celebration of Polari’s (multi award-winning LGBT literary salon) fourth birthday.

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