Self-taught artist Tuli Mekondjo works with mixed media (embroidery, collage, paint, resin and mahangu grain – a Namibian food staple) and extends these textured media into performance. Drawing on photographic archives and histories of the loss and erasure of Namibian cultural practices, she explores history and identity politics through the lens of those who lived in exile during Namibia’s independence war. Tacking between past and present, and paying homage to the practices of her forbears, she asks questions about intergenerational trauma and post-trauma, displacement and disorder.
Her current body of work centers around a collective and continuous mourning of souls that are hidden behind veils. Veils are not only a symbol of purity / virginity but a piece of cloth or ”face curtains” that also act as a shield, to ward off evil spirits during various cultural coming- of- age ceremonies and rituals. This piece of material is woven with religious indoctrination and embedded with symbolism – partially concealing, disguising, to cloak and to create a sense of mystery. The shadows behind the veils are the embodiment of the many struggles of women and girl-children endure, due to gender bias customary traditions and social traditions that force their submission.
Historically, the figures behind the veils have been side-lined, their human rights denied and their minds manipulated not to harbor the notion of a ”political-self” or ideas of self-reliance, but to remain hinged on a patriarchal system that is set up to create dependency and to foster a subordinate mindset. Adorned with new veils by the artist, however, they have transformed into vines of resilience, hope and strength. Over generations, these vines have been trailing: each strand represents the overcoming of adversity, and the development of a fertile mind.
Mekondjo is a participant in the Future Africa Visions in Time exhibition, a collaboration between the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies, Iwalewahaus Bayreuth and the Goethe-Institut Namibia. She has exhibited with the NJE Collective at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2019, the FNB Joburg Art Fair 2018, and Art Market Budapest 2016.