12 September 2012

Review: Queens of the Undead

QUEENS of the Undead is a contemporary collection by Kimathi Donkor offering powerful visual depictions of heroic black women from Africa and its diasporas.

The exhibition demonstrates strong messages of pathos, political intervention and struggles for liberation. Based at Iniva, Shoreditch, it offers an empathic view of powerful female figures, and reaffirms their places in defining the modern world.

On viewing the paintings one feels privy to the secret depths of someone’s creative fantasies, enchanted by grand tales of captivating figures in old folk tales. The realisation is, however, that these characters were not the result of someone’s imagination but intrinsic pieces of historical reality.

In fact, Kimathi subverts European art history, looking to oil paintings – traditionally used to portray the wealthy as noble. However, he explains: “Often when you look a little deeper into the historical reality, the truth can be quite dark as to how they acquired their wealth.”

He continues: “The work allows the viewer to see common threads throughout black history where by women stood out and are recognised as commanders of armies, queens, military leaders and freedom fighters.”

The six pieces highlight instrumental female figures in black history, such as escaped slave Harriet Tubman who helped others flee oppression, as well as Nanny of the Maroons, an ex-slave who fought against the British colonisation of Jamaica.

And through an evocation of pride, power and devotion found resonating within his imagery, these women are notably reinstated as some of the most powerful figures in history.

Queens of the Undead runs until 24 November. Admission is free, but registration is required. For more info, visit: www.iniva.org

Jonny was born aloft by Kimathi Donkor

Jonny was born aloft by Kimathi Donkor

Jonny was born aloft by Kimathi Donkor Madonna Metropolitan by Kimathi Donkor When shall we 3 by Kimathi Donkor

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