Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Muse: The Poetry of Grace Ndiritu

He stood East of my childhood
and West of my future.
~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Poetry, to be poetry, need not be reduced to writing on a page, as I think today's beautiful short, The Nightingale (2003), by Grace Ndiritu, shows. Featuring Ndiritu, the seven-minute film (its title evocative of the famous tale of unrequited love) presents a sequence of transformative movements, each altering the artist's physical appearance and, therefore, cultural identity. 

Garbed in a fabric that she turns at first slowly and then rapidly, in rhythm to the African music, her eyes fixed on the viewer, Ndiritu reveals herself blindfolded and then in headscarf, burka, veil, bandanna, purdah, gag, and turban. With each dramatic change of reference, she challenges us to acknowledge and examine our perceptions and stereotypes, until the moment of the final visual metaphor — birds in flight — comes onscreen, revealing to us the possibility that we can free ourselves from what prevents us from being wholly human. 

While made more than 10 years ago, this video remains profoundly relevant.

My art is an attempt to give back what has been taken
from those who lack power: their dignity.
~ Grace Ndiritu


Grace Ndiritu lives and works in London. She has made more than 40 "hand-crafted videos" and "video paintings", including A Week in the News (2010) and Arrested Development (2003). Her work is the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in private collections in the United States and abroad.

Grace Ndiritu at LuxOnline, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cotton: Global Threads (Audio Interview), Tumblr

(My thanks to Hunger TV for the link.)

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