By Nii B. Andrews.
The East African Rift Valley has yielded some of the oldest clues to the ancestry of humankind.
As recently as 2008, two hominid ancestor fossils close to ten million years old were found there.
The great exodus from this area led to the population of the globe.
Today it is still inhabited by vibrant communities and individuals such as the artist, Maliza Kiasuwa, who lives on a farm near Lake Naivasha.
Maliza Kiasuwa is self taught and is “fascinated by natural laws that govern of the cycles of life and the power of nature”.
She is attracted to the mysteries of ageing and death which she posits are an essential part of our earthly existence.
Her continued contemplation of the regenerative and transformative processes of nature have suffused her artwork.
Hence through the use of mundane articles and transforming them by cutting, tearing and shredding; in addition to sewing, weaving and dyeing, she is able to articulate and conjure new vibrant and eloquent forms while still maintaining the integrity of her sourced elements.
When Kiasuwa turned her attention to old engravings of her bourgeois European ancestors, she decided to marry their visages with iconic tribal masks from Africa in order to reflect her mixed Afro-European heritage.
The result was a series of intriguing multimedia collages that spoke to a powerful act of reconciliation; an act that confirms that “life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.”
To propel us forward do we really need to be reminded that we all started out at the same place and from the same substrate?
Surely, some of us who contemplate her pieces will understand that if we have met the enemy, he is us.
Perhaps the provocative juxtaposition of forms in Kiasuwa’s work may set us on the path of wisdom which must begin with an admission of our own lack of knowledge.
Her current online exhibition “MALIZA KIASUWA: ANCESTRY” continues until the end of August 2021.
It is hosted by the SULGER-BUEL GALLERY.