Tuli Mekondjo

Namibia

About the Artist

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.

Exhibitions

  • 2024 DECADE : 10 Years of Guns & Rain (group exhibition), Johannesburg
  • 2023 Ousie Martha, Guns & Rain, Johannesburg
  • 2023 Frieze London, Hales Gallery
  • 2023 Art Joburg, Guns & Rain
  • 2023 To be Named, HausKunstMitte, Berlin
  • 2023 O Quilombismo, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin
  • 2023 Ousie Martha, Basler Afrika Bibliographien (BAB), Basel (performance)
  • 2023 EXPO Chicago, Hales Gallery
  • 2023 Iikayiwa yoluhepo: Headdresses of Affliction, MARKK Museum, Hamburg (performance)
  • 2023 Art Central Hong Kong, Guns & Rain Gallery
  • 2023 Unmourned Bodies, AVA Gallery, Cape Town
  • 2023 Memoria: Accounts of Another History, National Museum of Cameroon
  • 2023 Norval Foundation Finalists Exhibition, Cape Town
  • 2022  The Armory Show, Hales Gallery, New York
  • 2022  “Oudjuu wo makipa etu/ The burdens of our Bones”, Hales Gallery, New York
  • 2022  “Unsettled”, Group Show, Duende Art Projects, Belgium
  • 2022  “Gegenbilder | Counter Images”, Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne, Germany
  • 2022  Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Guns & Rain, Cape Town
  • 2021  “Threads”, Group Show, Duende Art Projects, Belgium
  • 2021  1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London, with Guns & Rain
  • 2021  “Un.e Air.e de Famille”, Musée Paul Éluard de Saint Denis, Paris
  • 2021  African Galleries Now, Artsy, Guns & Rain
  • 2021  “Face-to-face”, Traversées Africaines, Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris
  • 2021  “Memoria”, Frac Nouvelle Aquitaine MÉCA, Bordeaux, France
  • 2020  1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London, with Guns & Rain
  • 2020  ARCO Lisboa, Portugal, Online
  • 2020  “The Borders of Memory” with Helena Uambembe, Guns & Rain, Johannesburg
  • 2020  Investec Cape Town Art Fair, with Guns & Rain
  • 2019  Solo Exhibition, The Project Room, Namibia
  • 2019  1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Guns & Rain, London
  • 2019  “Suffrage”, Women’s Group Show, Guns & Rain, Johannesburg
  • 2019  Investec Cape Town Art Fair, NJE Collective
  • 2018  FNB Joburg Art Fair, NJE Collective
  • 2018  Future Africa Visions in Time, Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies and the Goethe-Institut Namibia
  • 2016  Collective at the Art Market, Group Show, Budapest
  • 2016  “The Bellowing Mind”, Solo Exhibition, Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre, Namibia

Collections

 

  • Mercedes Benz Collection, Germany
  • Pas Collection, Belgium
  • Foundation Blachere, France
  • Ilham Gallery, Malaysia
  • University of South Africa (UNISA)
  • ARAK Collection, Qatar
  • Africa First Collection

Grants, Residencies and Awards

  • Villa Romana Prize, Florence, Italy 2024
  • DAAD, Berlin, Germany 2022
  • Norval Sovereign African Art Prize Finalist, Norval Foundation, Cape Town 2022

Selected Works

OTJZE III- Rituals of Initiation

2022
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

2022
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 I- Rituals of Initiation

2022
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

2022
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

2021
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

2021
Image transfer, gold marker on canvas, cotton embroidery thread, crochet yarn, silk fabrics
96 x 95 cm

Nayitsuwe/ Let the grains be pounded

2022
Collage, mahangu, resin, acrylic ink/paint, wild silk fabric, cotton embroidery threads on canvas
216 x 155 cm

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