Since July, the AKKA Project in Venice opened the exhibition I Exist! with works by the young artists Margaret Ngigi from Kenya and Lebo Thoka from South Africa. The exhibition, focusing on “the endless facets of being a woman in Africa”, was organised in collaboration with South Africa’s David Krut Projects.
Ngigi is a passionate photographer, filmmaker and film production student at the United States International University-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. Her practice focuses on women, their social roles and the issues they face. Some of the works included in I Exist! show her exploration of the wedding veil as a symbolic representation of women and their social roles in Kenya’s traditional culture. Ngigi’s works are considered as her personal journey through femininity. By creating these images, she actually reflects and investigates her own condition of being a woman in Kenya.
Thoka, born in Johannesburg, where she currently lives and works, graduated from the Open Window Institute in Pretoria in 2015 and has since worked as a freelance photographer. In her practice, she explores the female condition on different levels. For the exhibition I Exist!, she presents the series It is well: An ode to Karabo (2018), Seeds of the Dirt (2020) and two singular works, Initiation of Mary and Black of My Flesh.
The first series pays tribute to women who have been victims of femicidal violence in South Africa. She portrays them in dignified and saintly backgrounds and poses, so they are not merely presented as victims. In Seeds of the Dirt, she explores black womanhood with grandiose presentations and visual aesthetics inspired by classical Western iconography. Thoka takes the opportunity to reimagine and question “who is considered valuable by these traditional standards of representation” and creates a series of images substituting the ideal caucasian reference with Black characters.
I Exist! closes on August 21, 2021. Visit AKKA Project and David Krut Projects websites for more information.