THE “SPEAKING CLOTHES” OF LUBAINA HIMID.

By Nii B. Andrews

Last year Lubaina Himid won the Turner Prize in ground breaking fashion. Since then she has continued relentlessly with her progressive work.

In her latest exhibition she utilises the traditional multi colored fabrics – called Kangas-  worn by East African women to fabricate artwork that formulates new narratives and questions of belonging and identity.

A typical kanga consists of three parts: the pindo (border), the mji (central motif), and the jina (message or ‘name’), which often takes the form of a riddle or proverb.

They are “speaking clothes” since they can be utilized as head wraps, shawls or body wrappers.

Himid in her series of cloth paintings has depicted in the center of each cloth, various body parts; eye socket, heart, lungs etc.

For the central message (or jina) she quotes phrases from influential writers: Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Sonia Sanchez.

The cloths are then suspended by a pulley system across the gallery floor, almost like banners or flags. Visitors are invited to use the pulley system to rearrange the flags based on their personal choice.

The combination of the colors, anatomical parts and phrases invite the viewer to a deeper contemplation of our common humanity.

At the same time, by hanging the cloth paintings as flags Himid invites emphatic questions about belonging, representation and identity.

The exhibition is titled, “Our Kisses are Petals”.

The full phrase from Hemphill’s words, “Our kisses are petals, our tongues caress the bloom” should push us all to carefully examine the language we choose to express ourselves, together with our actions as they ultimately form the world we live in.

The exhibition runs from May 11 to October 28 2018 at the Baltic Center, UK.

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