Controlled anxiety: The artist has the unique ability to sketch interesting visual depictions of emotions such as anxiety. (Photograph By Zorena Jantze)
The Franco Namibian Cultural Centre, earlier this week swayed Windhoekers away from the gray horizon of the windy August weather with the opening of talented artist, Tuli Mekondjo’s first solo exhibition.
With larger than life acrylic paintings, she immersed the audience in a wonderland of imagery that inhabits her subconscious mind before she transforms them into beautiful, sometimes obscure imagery.
The exhibition titled “the bellowing mind” by Mekondjo can only be described as a coming of age for the young self-taught artist, as she has become more expressive in her content and creative acumen. What makes the exhibition unique is the strong link between psychological themes such as anxiety, depression and trauma and Tuli’s rather brazen attempts to paint emotion onto canvas. The exhibition is a portrayal of the mental struggles of the self.
In her work, figments of unresolved pain are waiting to be re-born, grow and face ‘’death’’. The works presented are infused with a sense of confusion and anguish with alternating moments of beauty, clarity and optimism. Layers of memories, visions and associations are intertwined, pushing themselves to the fore, as the canvases are inhabited with different subjects and imagery, individually and collectively telling the wrangled tales of exploring and discovery.
Talking to the Economist, the young artist delved into the inspirations behind her works, casually sauntering through the gallery to explain some of her works and her technique of painting. The artist seems to be introverted at first, even shy, merely explaining her works to be inspired by life’s traumas.
However when asked about the recurring themes of tree roots and branches in her canvases, Mekondjo explains that the roots signify stability and serve as an anchor. “My parents passed on at a very young age, thus growing up there was not that much stability, thus the tree roots serve as foundation for me mentally I think” she said. Strolling deeper into the gallery, Mekondjo points out another canvas titled ‘the rebirth of trauma’ explaining that she is pregnant with her own trauma, saying the fetus is a representation of the self as trauma.
“I was born during a period of war and turmoil in Kwanza-sul, Angola in 1982 and thus named Tuli-Mekondjo (meaning ‘we are in the struggle’). I now see Namibia and much of Africa as having a new (mental) struggle, that of maintaining its cultural history, and heritage and the individual’s crisis of identity. My work looks back to, and borrows from increasingly outmoded African traditions and spirituality” Mekondjo explained.
This exhibition offers great visual depictions with lovely titles. Being confronted with Mekondjo’s works, the viewer is taken into a rather personal and spiritual realm, where the artists is a guide and mentor.