Tuli Mekondjo (b. 1982) is a self-taught Namibian artist whose work explores the construction of identity in the shadow of Namibia’s violent past as both a German and later South African colony. She uses a variety of media including natural silks, embroidery, photo-transfer, soil, paint, resin and mahangu (millet) grain, a staple food in Namibia, to reframe imagery from historical photographs from both the German colonial period (1884-1919) and subsequent occupation by South Africa. Mekondjo’s multilayered works result from a process of both literal and figurative burial and retrieval, and draw heavily on photographic representations of indigenous Namibian people from multiple ethnic groups.
Mekondjo also has a performance practice which extends the her archival research and interventions, and locates her personally in the context of Namibian history. The presence of female ancestors is particularly important for Mekondjo, whose connection to her mother and grandmother are the beginning of a cycle of connections to female ancestors stretching back in time. This ties her performances to her two-dimensional works, which often have images of wombs and foetuses embroidered onto them, metaphorically connecting the beginnings of life to the soil and to women.
Mekondjo, whose name means “we are in the struggle”, was born in Angola to Namibian parents who joined SWAPO (South West Africa Peoples’ Organisation) in exile in the early 1980s. She has exhibited widely in Namibia, South Africa, France, the United States, Hong Kong and Germany. In 2022 she became the first black Namibian woman ever to exhibit in the United States, where she is co-represented by Hales. In 2023, her work was shown at Frieze London, Art Central Hong Kong, EXPO Chicago, ARCO Lisboa and Art Joburg. She is represented in multiple international collections.
OTJZE III- Rituals of Initiation
Mahangu grain, Archival image transfer, resin,
gold spray paint, paint markers/ gold marker,
acrylic inks, cotton crochet yarn, embroidery
thread, wild silk fabric on canvas
150 x 150 cm
OTJZE II- Rituals of Initiation
OTJZE I- Rituals of Initiation
Mahangu grain, Archival image transfer, resin, gold spray paint, paint markers/ gold marker, acrylic inks, cotton crochet yarn, embroidery thread, wild silk fabric on canvas
150 x 150cm
Nanguloshi noudjuu waye/ The one born at night with her burdens
Image transfer, collage, mahangu, resin, cotton fabric, acrylic ink, cotton embroidery threads on canvas
226 x 91 cm
Omoshi dalelo twa dja/ It is from the womb we emerged
Image transfer, collage, mahangu, resin, acrylic ink/paint, wild silk fabric, cotton embroidery threads on canvas
223 x 92 cm
Meekulu tu tula omwenyo/ Grandmother revive us
Image transfer, gold marker on canvas, cotton embroidery thread, crochet yarn, silk fabrics
96 x 95 cm
Nayitsuwe/ Let the grains be pounded
Collage, mahangu, resin, acrylic ink/paint, wild silk fabric, cotton embroidery threads on canvas
216 x 155 cm
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