And she was
wearing trousers:
a call to our heroines

Nontsikelelo Mutiti

Memeza (2022)

Singer, songwriter and activist Brenda Fassie was sometimes known as ‘the Madonna of the Townships’, ‘the Queen of African Pop,’ and ‘Ma Brr’. Hands are taken from images of Brenda Fassie, a Southern African icon, with sources ranging from album covers, posters, music video stills and press photographs, used to present the different modes of the freedom fighter.

The base of the work is typographic, each letterform is built up from a series of modules that carry the motif of cornrows or hair braids or plaits. A major concern of research is how to speak about such modes of production as technologies, drawing parallels between African hair braiding practices and digital image making processes.
An old colonial building has a large shadow cast on it from a tree. Three arched windows have artworks with black on white designs that look like cornrows and braids that create the letters E, M, E. There are arms within the letters doing various gestures. Below the windows are large red letters that spell out Arts House.
One time pointing and at other times praying, punching the air, grasping, clapping and caressing, the work is inspired by Fassie’s song of the same title, 'Memeza'.
A street view shows the side of an old colonial building with an arched window. The window displays an artwork of black images on white background. It appears to be the letter A, made from a braid motif, with arms gesturing at the centre. In front of the window is the footpath with a tree to the left and traffic pole showing "Errol Street".
Detail of the artwork in the windows showing the braid and cornrow motif in black vinyl on a white surface.

Installation with adhesive vinyl on windows. Dimensions variable.

Installation views of Memeza at Arts House, 2022.

A pink room shows the back of a black woman with a shaved head, with her reflection visibale within a gold frame mirror. She has blue lipstick sitting crossed legged looking left, within a backdrop many packets of African hair extensions.

Nontsikelelo Mutiti is a Zimbabwean-born visual artist and educator. She is invested in elevating the work and practices of Black peoples past, present, and future through a conceptual approach to design, publishing, archiving practices, and institution building. Mutiti holds a diploma in multimedia from the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (ZIVA) and an MFA from the Yale School of Art, with a concentration in graphic design.