Nzuji De Magalhaes
yarn, beads, glitter, sand, oil paint
200 small paintings 6 x 8 and 5 x 7 in.
This collection of paintings are based on the Vendor/Collector, an issue that reflects on the exotic and the exoticized. The vendor is a craftsman from a war torn country that sells the unique pieces to survive, and the foreign collector buys it because of its exotic nature.
I was born and raised in Angola, a country located in southwest Africa. During my early years, I had the opportunity to learn and study two essential perspectives of my diverse cultural background which are now unfolding in creative activity. Folklore and mythologies were two of the most important and an essentials element in young people lives, considering the theoretical and political development of our culture. Due to the evolution of this development, some of the pure and original traditions are slowly fading out because of western influences.
In Angola, story telling is instrumental for spending quality time with the family and conveying important lessons to the youth regarding experiences in their daily lives. These valuable lessons were constantly taught at home while at school we were instructed in various techniques to become gainfully employed. It is quite usual to begin learning a trade at the age of twelve. Although I was taught the basic techniques of painting and design at school, my craft skills were self-taught. I acquired them by listening to stories retold continually by my grandparents and uncles in Angola. I transformed my craft into a tool used solely for communicating the many interpretations foreseen in the Angolan culture due to the immutable social and political changes. Most of the traditional forms of culture have been affected by a mixture of national and foreign elements such as magic, slavery, war, American movies, death, Russian cartoons, hunger, Cuban Revolution imitators, disease and Christmas.
These activities were an integral part of my early childhood. The continuing phase of my education occurred on American soil. I am American by birthright. I arrived in America to continue my higher education ten years ago. I am still fascinated with its diverse-culture. Every day, I encounter new learning experiences. I hungrily devour the history about this country and the events that contributed to its development into the great nation it is today, especially those referring to my African American heritage.
Nonetheless, on several occasions many of my associates have conveyed certain misconceptions, and stereotypes about both African and American cultures. For example, many Americans perceive Africa as a primitive continent (i.e., the images of grass huts and a farmer walking behind a hitched to oxen divulged on CNN), while many Africans view African Americans as gangsters possessing great riches and wealth, (i.e., the rap music video-clips portraying the artists with huge cars and gold chains). I must admit that I also had similar illusions due to this type of propaganda and exposure over the mass Tele-communication systems.. Fortunately due to my studies in both countries, I had the chance to share my knowledge and experiences with the public. By mutual sharing and exchange of knowledge and _expression I was enriched with learning and maturing from these differences of opinions about the world.
My artwork depicts stereotype issues, Post Colonial Discourse, Myth, ethnicity, politics and other genres. I meticulously combine both art forms that I learnt in Africa and in America, such that in the Souvenir project, I combine both images that I gathered during my time in Angola and in the States.
© Nzuji De Magalhaes