Keli-Safia Maksud | Kenya
Artist. She agencies objects and emblems common to the imagery spawned by the tumultuous historical ties between Europe and Africa, unveiling clichés that underlie the conception of Africanity. The latter is interpreted less as an element that belongs to the peoples of this continent, and more as a byproduct of the mercantile expansion of European powers. Underpinned by this global scenario, her works go back to a more personal dimension where they often take on autobiographical overtones. She ultimately expands the discussion surrounding the possible existence of an African identity, and even challenges the notion of authenticity. Maksud creates performances, collages, sculptures, installations and videos. She completed a degree in Drawing and Painting from the Ontario College of Art and Design, Canada, 2007 and continued her studies at the same institution in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, she was featured in the group exhibitions Weeds, Alucine Latin Film Festival, Bavia Gallery; and Rebel Acts: Performance with La Pocha Nostra, Studio Theatre, both in Toronto. She lives and works between Nairobi and Toronto.
A bundle of supposedly African cloths is washed in a tin with soap and bleach. The piece alludes to the “whitening” of national identities and to the symbology surrounding soap in colonial trade between Africa and Europe: touted by Victorian-era publicity as a sign of British superiority, it was likened to a social purification technology, imbricated with the semiotics of imperial racism. Produced in the Netherlands, the fabrics reference a generic African identity; mitumba, Swahili word for "package," also designates second-hand clothing donated by rich countries to poor Africans. Here, these textiles reappear as a tool of power that helps build – or dissolve – contemporary African identities.