A vibrant series by Thandiwe Muriu celebrates African culture and heritage

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There is an extensive and quite appealing explanation for each vivid image in Thandiwe Murius’ series camouflage: It unlocks the hidden meanings, references and stories behind the objects, the print designs, the hairstyles. Each is also paired with an African proverb, and one in particular caught my eye: “No matter how far a river flows, it never forgets its source”. It seems like a good metaphor for Murius art. A self-taught artist, born and raised in Nairobi, Thandiwe managed to create her own universe, fusing Kenyan history and tradition with her own personal – and utterly contemporary – aesthetic.

Sculptural hairstyles, bright prints, everyday objects are transformed into something new and unexpected, and all these elements come together in photographs that represent a kind of transfiguration, portraits that become powerful symbols of beauty and pride.

The title itself hints at this symbolic process: the subjects do camouflage into the background, but, as she eloquently explains, only to attract attention: “It’s a commentary on how we, as individuals, can lose ourselves in the culture of expectation and yet there are so unique and beautiful things about each individual.”

Her work will be on display alongside artists Derrick Ofosu Boateng and Hassan Hajjaj until October 28, 2022 for the final Venetian chapter of Gallery 193, aptly titled The Colors of Dreams. Here we delve deep into Thandiwe’s world and discover how she developed her unique style and role Fashion played in the decision to become an artist and the influence of African glorious traditions of portraiture, hairstyles and printed fabrics.

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