Africa Travel and Life

Thandiwe Muriu CAMO Series

Thandiwe Muriu showcases Africa’s unique mix of vibrant cultures, textiles and beauty norms. Her photography succinctly places emphasis on celebrating and empowering the woman. By employing rich, vibrant colors she cleverly celebrates her African heritage and successfully tackles issues surrounding identity and self-perception.

Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya – Thandiwe discovered photography at 14 thanks to her father.  Kenya did not have any formal photography schools so she trained herself using books and the internet. Pushing her way through the industry, she started working as a professional photographer at 17 years old. At 21 she was introduced to advertising photography and two years later shot her first advertising campaign. Until 2019, she worked her way to the top of the industry in Kenya, becoming a photographer of note. Her career saw her photograph advertisements for some of the biggest companies in East Africa.

As the sole female operating in the male-dominated advertising photography industry, Thandiwe was often faced with questions around self-perception, the role of women in society and the place of tradition. This journey inspired her to begin her Camo series, a personal project that launched her career into the fine-art world. In this body of work she explores and addresses the issues of culture, identity and the place of the woman in a traditional society – all key issues she had faced in the commercial world. Thandiwe Muriu is passionate about celebrating and empowering her fellow women.

As a manifestation of the African proverb, “However far the stream flows, it never forgets its source”, Thandiwe Muriu consistently reimagines objects associated with the daily lives of Kenyans into bold accessories donned by her subjects. These objects range from tissue rolls to mosquito coils the artist grew up utilizing. In Kenya an object can have multiple uses beyond its original purpose. This creative recycling is commonplace for a population often lacking in means- as the artist explains, “When you have little, you transform and reuse it.”

Though a vivid aesthetic, the Artist takes you on a colorful, reflective journey through her world as a woman living in modern Kenya as she reinterprets Contemporary African Portraiture.

The photography of Thandiwe Muriu deconstructs the individuality of Africa’s vibrant cultural mix. The emancipation of beauty norms is a reoccurring theme at the forefront of her practice as she employs surrealist techniques to redefine female empowerment through the application of material choices such as textiles and common household items. In her CAMO series, Thandiwe showcases Africa’s unique mix of vibrant cultures, textiles and beauty norms. Through her work she celebrates her African heritage and tackles important issues such as identity and self-perception using the rich colors and vibrancy the continent is so well known for.

Drawing inspiration from African textiles, everyday objects and traditional hairstyles, Thandiwe explores how the individual can lose their identity to culture. In her work she not only explores who she is as an artist, but also as a black woman. Through CAMO, Thandiwe aims to reclaim the self-love of the African woman who is often excluded from beauty standards in her own country.

She currently resides in Nairobi, Kenya where she teaches workshops and regularly travels for assignments.

The accessories in Thandiwe’s work are inspired by the objects Kenyans interact with in their everyday life, where one object can have multiple uses beyond its original purpose. The Artist explains that this creative recycling is commonplace for a population often lacking in means- “When you have little, you transform and reuse it.“

Lastly, passionate about the rich history of traditional, architectural hairstyles that are being forgotten, Thandiwe was inspired to incorporate modern forms of these hairstyles into her work in a process the Artist refers to as ‘modernizing history’- drawing from historical elements to inform future generations about the past.

Though a vivid aesthetic, the Artist takes you on a colourful journey through her world as a woman living in modern Africa as she reinterprets contemporary African portraiture.

Thandiwe’s 2023 Exhibitions & Shows

Solo Show: 193 Gallery, Paris, France (September)

Photofairs Shanghai: Shanghai, China (20-23rd April)

https://thandiwemuriu.com/

Without using any digital manipulation, she manipulates them into more contemporary garments whose patterns range from aggressive to whimsical, a reminder of the many facets of a woman’s personality.

Muriu remembers her youth and the smell of her mother’s baking, where she and her siblings were always eager to taste the sweets she prepared. “This is the smell of a mother’s love and the joy of her cooking,” says Muriu.

The head wraps reimagined.  She pairs hot-pink bottle cap earrings with her mother’s head wrap, signifying the act of crowning oneself. “Everyday, women are creating these unique works of art that can never be replicated again,” says Muriu.

“Don’t let anyone or anything dictate for you, including culture,” says Thandiwe Muriu.

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