Kimathi Mafafo produces works of art one can relax in front of, because what Mafafo seeks to do is soothe. But do not be fooled, her work represents a subtle yet forceful commentary on the fundamental right to privacy and happiness.
Indebted to the tradition of nude painting, we find Mafafo’s woman, Aziwe, seated in a forest, wrapped in luxurious textile, her glowing brown skin pixelated with a floral print. On this occasion she is bespectacled.
However, also directly contradicting the tradition of the nude, Mafafo’s woman in no way seeks to entice the viewer; she is no object of scrutiny or libidinal desire. While emphatically feminine, the woman is not sexualised. Indeed, the image is quirkily chaste. She could be listening to Billy Holiday singing 'In my solitude'.
Mafafo is quick to point out that this embodies what freedom in post-Apartheid South Africa means. The freedom to just be – unharrassed.
KIMATHI MAFAFO / Unwrapped
A cycle of large portraits in oil of one woman, Kimathi Mafafo's paintings hark back to the European moment when Classicism fused with Impressionism. This moment in art remains the most popular taste globally. Indeed, it has become a petit bourgeois convention. Mafafo knows this all too well. She presents an African take on Old European portraiture, with highly technical skills in producing foliage and richness in fabric, while commenting on aspects of African womanhood. She is regularly featured in media for the sensuality of her work.
Mafafo is a skilled colourist and handles her ruinously difficult subject matters, drapery and foliage, with the confidence of an old hand. The palette is muted: a mix of pinks, greens, yellows, browns and white.