Thando Mama, an artist based in Cape Town, makes work, which tackle the subjects of poverty, violence, and black masculinity and more broadly the continuing marginality of African subjects. He does this through visual critiques of popular culture’s perpetuation of racial stereotypes and histories, modes of representation that constrain the life chances of black Africans as effectively as prison bars or chains. For the most part Mama uses his own body as a subject in an intimate, performative relationship to mass media and popular culture such as hip-hop and film. His work repudiates traditional cinematic narrative, instead he concentrates on the purely visual, combining textures, a variety of distortions and close ups to intensify our sense of engagement with his politics. The artist’s work recuperates the direct raw approach of early experimental artist’s video, whilst deploying this language in an African context. Mama’s is not an art of open spaces but of “impossible spaces”, claustrophobic spaces that appear to close in on viewer and subject alike.
“The history of an African man is that of forced silence, of confinement to an impossible space, he struggles to fight for self-determination. These impossible spaces created by this history are visible, each day the African man lives, breathes, believes in them. They haunt and terrify him.”
Thando Mama 2003