“I Exist!” by Margaret Ngigi and Lebo Thoka at AKKA Project in Venice

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.

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154 Contemporary African Art Fair

Image by Margaret Ngigi. Courtesy of AKKA Project and the artist
Image by Margaret Ngigi. Courtesy of AKKA Project and the artist

Margaret Ngigi, Untitled, The Bride Avenue, 2020. Courtesy of AKKA Project and the artist
Margaret Ngigi, ‘Untitled, The Bride Avenue’, 2020. Courtesy of AKKA Project and the artist

Margaret Ngigi's Women and labels. Courtesy of AKKA Project and the artist
Margaret Ngigi’s ‘Women and labels’. Courtesy of AKKA Project and the artist

Margaret Ngigi's Wrapped up in my head. Courtesy of AKKA Project and the artist
Margaret Ngigi’s ‘Wrapped up in my head’. Courtesy of AKKA Project and the artist

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.

Our lady of good deliverance by Lebo Thoka. Courtesy of AKKA Project and David Krut Projects
‘Our lady of good deliverance’ by Lebo Thoka. Courtesy of AKKA Project and David Krut Projects

Lebo Thoka, Reeva Steenkamp, 29 years old, Shot 3 times by her boyfriend on Valentine's Day, 2016. Source: David Krut Projects
Lebo Thoka, ‘Reeva Steenkamp, 29 years old, Shot 3 times by her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day’, 2016. Source: David Krut Projects

'Black of my flesh' by Lebo Thoka. Courtesy of AKKA Project and David Krut Projects
‘Black of my flesh’ by Lebo Thoka. Courtesy of AKKA Project and David Krut Projects

I Exist! closes on August 21, 2021. Visit AKKA Project and David Krut Projects websites for more information. 

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