Artists story An Afternoon with Vicky Sheelongo
Southafrican born with Kenyan heritage, Stephanie Mzee – or better “Kenyaa” – is an uprising self-taught photographer who has invested in the knowhow of arts backstage after her major in producing and directing. Kenyaa refused to stiffen her work into a one-way communication, but rather she travels around a variety of mediums adding personal raffinate touches along with echoes of her native tradition. Furthermore, Kenyaa considers herself primarily as a writer: “I wanted to put a visual into my writings”, a visual that her conceptual photography faithfully embraced. Therefore, everything she does is pure storytelling.
In her series “COMPLY- COMPLY- COMPLY ” four images aim to evoke a provocative dialogue concerning topics around colonialism, race, slavery, purity, domestic workers and so forth in Africa; mainly the series focuses on speaking out for black women and their lived experiences of mistreatment and fetishisation to which they were made to ‘comply’ in the past, and are made to comply too often in present times; in this process black women lose their potentiality and personality, but the artist’s aim is to raise back the focus on their strength and value.
The latest series ‘I AM MORE’ explores the beauty of black children who live in areas in Africa which many look down upon. As the title suggests, I AM MORE wants to scream out they value over the circumstances: I am more than the area I come from, more than outsiders’ judgments. By capturing portraits of the children in the township of Mfuleni in South Africa, then surrounding each subject with 24k gold leaflet, the artist aims to highlight the fact that gold can be found in and around them, in the love and fun of poor kids who are as royal and precious as gold. Indeed, I AM MORE touches mainly on the misconception that children within these communities cannot experience fun and joy through the little things of their everyday unique experience within the community.
Kenyaa’s creative power lays in fiercely retrieving dignity for the black people, women, poor, and children, those who are still carrying out in the contemporary society effective wounds from the past and who had been silenced for their suffering, and sometimes ignored in their vibrant happiness.
Keen to know more about Kenyaa and her world?
Add her page in your art-itinerary and visit her studio during your next trip to South Africa!
Johannesburg | South Africa | 6.10.2020
Africa | 10.9.2020