Creating meaning through writing and image-making with Kenyaa Mzee

Kenyaa Mzee sees herself as a writer before anything else. The written word becomes a mode of organising thoughts and expressing ideas. Those ideas filter into other mediums, photography in particular. Although her creations span multiple styles, she is guided by her strong belief in art’s potential to bring positive change and therefore favours conceptual photography—taking care to go beyond aesthetics.

Aesthetics are important to me, but I do feel that the message is paramount. I believe art can make a difference and I plan on using art to do just that.

Using natural light to accentuate the beauty that comes off objects and shadows, Kenyaa creates images that are alluring.

I prefer no artificial lighting. The more natural light I can use, the better. I started relying on natural light back when I did not have access to equipment since it was free.

Kenyaa produces work that deals with representation. Her images offer a comforting familiarity. She is influenced and inspired by her community and those around her. Art making becomes a language to interrogate, meditate and celebrate. In 2016 she presented a beautiful and provocative assemblage of images through her series: Where is the ‘ME’ in Media?”- The Black Woman; an inquiry into the portrayal of black women in media – undermining the pervasive approach of appropriation of black women’s bodies and stories without any intention of honestly engaging with them. In this sense, Kenyaa is not only representing the reality of black women but rather creating it. The line between documentation and storytelling is very thin.

I am a fan of creating spaces for constructive dialogue and change. Nothing positive can be achieved if we do not change. Nothing can change if we do not talk it out. Whatever it may be, we need to do so in a way that brings healthy change to the community/people.

As a well rounded artist, Kenyaa’s contribution within the arts go beyond writing and photography. She recently participated in the project Sisterhood — a visual-audio project documenting various aspects of sisterhood in various environments. The project was spearheaded and shot by Congolese- born, Cape Town based photographer Alban Bulibirha.

Her work is gaining well deserved recognition — in 2018 she was selected as part of a cohort of Design Indaba Emerging Creatives. This is just the beginning of the journey for Kenyaa:

I just finished a project due to be exhibited in Germany this month. It was an interesting and eye opening experience. I created my first mixed medium art pieces (thirty to be exact). Making it my largest body of work. I love it.

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