Kimathi Mafafo’s African woman is not iconic. Her take on a European painting tradition is not derivative. What we are asked to appreciate is a cherished ideal which, historically, has been denied to women – sacrosanct privacy, self-determination & liberty.
She draws inspiration from Virginia Woolf forceful reminder of this in A Room of One’s Own, as did Mary Wollstonecraft a century before in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
Mafafo's African woman is the young Miriam Makeba, or the young Winnie Mandela. Women who were denied the right to privacy, self-determination and liberty. In order to achieve these things, they were forced to leave their country and sacrifice much.
Forced to withdraw. It is the principle of 'withdrawnness', of solitude, which sits behind Mafafo’s cycle of work. She seeks nothing other than the sanctity of confident, secure, solitude.