Project Description

AKAA Also Known as Africa – Paris, November 9 – 12, 2017

INDIGO – Passage to Healing – paintings and performance works by collaborating artists, Robyn Denny and Mamela Nyamza, curated by Beathur Mgoza Baker

In November 2017, the artists and creative team travel to Paris to exhibit their new body of work, INDIGO – Passage to Healing, at the AKAA Art Fair as part of a select list of participating artists and galleries from around the world.

AKAA is one of the prime new international locations for acquiring the very best in contemporary African art from across the continent.

The INDIGO – Passage to Healing body of work represents a bold new de-colonial discourse exploring HEALING (AKAA’s current theme) through painting and performance, closely connecting the themes to the historic Indigo dye that runs through a hidden narrative in African history, soaking it in untold stories of the mass enslavement of Africans, and a disconnected heritage in which bodies were traded for cloth.

Ending Invisibility & Women’s Bodies Edited Out of History

In a review of the work, leading author, art critic and editor Ashraf Jamal says “Robyn Denny and Mamela Nyamza’s Indigo Africa, an installation and performance – presented at AKAA –  tracks the history of empire, and, in concert with that history of ideological domination and material extraction, the oppression of women.” 

In the large-scale canvases Denny explores the natural pigment indigo through its complex history of tumultuous trade. At once the colour of royalty and oppression, a piece of indigo cloth was traded for a slave life in colonised Africa. Indigo profits built the Vlisco empire, while Vlisco itself contributed to what scholars call the “African Print” hoax. 

Focal points for Denny are the Dahomey Amazons who wore indigo, and the economically voracious interface of the Dutch with the pigment in West Africa. Mesmeric layers emerge in a series soaked in the history of this deep hue – Denny has ground and liquefied the processed leaves of the Indigofera tinctoria plant for the works.

Collaborating artist Mamela Nyamza leads the outstanding performance aspect of the work, connecting it to the colonial era atrocities and the need for naming this harm, back to the central theme of healing history’s disruptive impact on the continent, and its mark on women’s bodies and spirits.

INDIGO AFRICA curator Beathur Mgoza Baker says “the unchecked commercial trade in fabric, dreams and Black bodies across oceans to darkest Africa and back is one of the most impactful in the untold stories of mass enslavement and African women’s invisibility within this narrative. Denny and Nyamza’s exploration reclaims our hidden narratives, visibility and bodies so routinely edited out of history over time – it represents a critical and timeous intervention’.