Image from 'Nothing' by
Image from 'Nothing' by Keyezua

Keyezua – articulating discomfort to liberate the new generation of African women

Keyezua is a woman before she is an artist. A woman with womanly experiences in this manly world. An uncomfortable woman who finds solace through paintings, sculptures, poems, and film. A qualified woman with a degree from the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague, Netherlands. An African woman, who is changing the narrative of African woman, African people, African artists.

Born in Luanda, Angola, Keyezua was cognisant of the expected social performance of femininity. As an occupant of a female body, Keyezua was tormented by the need to “get out the things that were born inside me.” She had to be audacious and speak to her African culture, her femaleness, her sexuality, her beauty, her religion, her artistry and rarely discussed African experiences.

“It’s not only making art of beautiful quality, it means much more. It means to have an impact, it means change, or even saying ‘fuck you’ without any boundaries or fear. It’s about being fearless, it’s a nonstop job…”

Image from ‘Nothing’

However, Keyezua’s incessant mission is not considered a job. “Careers” belong to lawyers and doctors, not artists. Women can be lawyers and doctors but men are the real artists. Put simply, Keyezua’s journey has been difficult and she wearily advocates constantly for her space in society. Recently at the bank, she was told to just say that she is unemployed instead of claiming she is an artist. Her society thinks she does nothing. The pain of totally being disregarded by her people, when she is recognised in other parts of the continent and world, caused her to study body positions in a mixed media photo series titled NOTHING. Keyezua captured young black unemployed men who go the beach and do what looks like nothing as they wait for social change.

In her latest work, FORTIA, Keyezua expresses pain of losing her father and receives long-awaited peace by laying to rest his suffering through illness and marginalisation. Part of Keyezua’s father’s battle with diabetes involved the amputation of both his legs. Even though she was absent, Keyezua knew how disabled people in Angola are treated. She imagined the depth of his isolation. Moreover, being unable to have “the funeral moment and sorrow, this is how I connected my father back to people that survive and continue their life in this metropolitan city.”

Image from ‘Fortia’

The symbolic masks used in FORTIA were Keyezua’s creation and were made by a group of six handicapable men. The absence of eyes from the masks represent how ableism causes most to turn a blind eye. The absence of a nose represents depression. The nose aids breathing and without it, living is difficult as is living with depression. The absence of a mouth and ears represents the silencing of the handicapable, their voices aren’t heard and nobody is trying to listen to them.

Despite the sadness that conceived FORTIA, Keyezua interest was in creating powerful images that empowered a community that matters despite social ideals. Naturally, Keyezua used a female body in FORTIA as she usually does in most of her work. “Somehow, I worship the female body…” Keyezua explained. As her earthly vessel, the female body affects and enhances the experiences that Keyezua calls her own and relates to.

“We are no longer the same as our mothers,” emphasised Keyezua, as she elaborated on how she challenges African and Western expectations on female bodies. In her mixed media series, Stone Orgasms, Keyezua spoke to the destruction caused by Female Genital Mutilation. In Afroeucentric Face On!, she speaks to the disillusion perpetuated by glossy magazines, soapies and social media.

Image from ‘Stone Orgasms’

Keyezua articulates her fierce convictions boldly and her fervent desire is to continue creating images that depict her discomfort in order to successively liberate the new generation of African women.

For more of Keyezua’s work check out her website.

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