Montague Contemporary art gallery is delighted to welcome Kenyan artist Jess Atieno to its art space for a solo exhibition. Entitled “Of Land, Body, and Water“, this presentation will run until October 21 and will showcase the latest selection of works by the contemporary artist, where in a complex and nuanced panorama, she offers the public an immersive exploration into the duality of representation within a post-colonial referential. Taking a fresh look at African identity, Jess Atieno analyzes the momentary nature of visual imagery and how its representation evades the photographic lens.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Jess Atieno is an influential figure on the contemporary African art scene. She studied at the Asiko School of Art in Lagos, before obtaining an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA. The artist is committed to the discovery and study of complex narratives of identity, colonial history and place. The Nairobi Print Project platform, an online library she founded devoted to African colonial and diasporic histories, testifies to her commitment and interest in this part of so-called post-colonial history, the source of African identity complexity.
The first part of his exhibition, “Of Land, Body, and Water“, questions the limits of visual media in their ability to capture the very essence and complexity of the images they are supposed to convey. Through her artworks, the Kenyan artist invites the public to reflect on and reconsider the conventional methods used to reflect the image, taking a critical look at the relevance of the photographic lens and the assumptions it conveys.
At the same time, the exhibition explores the various possibilities for reappropriating this representation as a whole, using the transformative potential of Swahili “Leso” fabrics, also known as khanga. Jess Atieno sees this fabric as a metaphor for “reclaiming representation through iconography and remediation“. Leso, a fabric strongly rooted in East African life and history, thus becomes an enunciative narrative medium in the hands of the contemporary artist.
She uses the cultural richness of leso tapestry as a backdrop to adorn historical subjects in order to bring out the essence of the image and recover their identity deteriorated by the photographic lens as well as their representation. Its multi-faceted motifs and precepts (ujumbe) offer a means of interpersonal communication, particularly for women, within societal and cultural margins that could restrict their voice. The visual and cultural richness of leso offers Jess Atieno an opportunity not only to reappropriate the visual overview of the photographs, but also to give another dimension to these photographic works.