Admittedly I am late to the party, because it was only recently that I discovered the video artwork of Congolese artist  Magema.  For some reason, Magema’s video work “The Kiss of Narcisse” stuck with me even days after I came across it on the internet. Her videos explore duality in cultural identity. Born in Kinshasa, Magema emigrated to France at a young age, her work focuses on the relationship between her Congolese and French identity.

The video above is a presentation Magema did for the exhibition on Global Feminisms at the Elizabeth A. Slacker Center for Feminist Art forum in 2007.  Definitely worth the watch because she discusses the ethos behind her work.

The Kiss of Narcisse(e)
©2010
Video Projection

Here is a better description of The Kiss of Narcisse by Art Historian Yvette Greslé

Magema’s video, a performed, self-conscious promenade, is titled ‘Interiority-Fresco IV: The Kiss of Narcisse(e)’, (2010). The myth of Narcissus and Echo is familiar: a tale of unrequited love and eternal punishment. In Ovid Echo was condemned by the goddess Juno to repeat only the last words that were spoken to her. Narcissus, punished for not returning Echo’s love was compelled to fall in love with his own reflection. He died unable to detach himself from his reflection in a pool of water. In Magema’s video where are Narcissus and Echo? Are their presences registered, ambiguously, in the gestures, and repetitions we see? In watching this work, I am drawn back to one of the texts, that for me, is foundational to a discourse on race and trauma: Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks (first published in French in 1952). The text searched for a ‘new humanism’ as it sought to comprehend the violence of race: ‘The white man is sealed in his whiteness. The black man in his blackness. We shall seek to ascertain the directions of this dual narcissism and the motivations that inspire it’. (Fanon, English translation, 1967: 9-10).

Text by Yvette Greslé

Across the Souvenirs

My work exists within an intermediary zone, a sort of matter space of a frontier I have produced and that I situate within the countries of France and the Democratic Republic of Congo.I am a cultural hybrid endowed with a composite identity.The plurality of my parents provide me with the authorization to interrogate my own history and that of a nation, the place of my birth, as well as the continent of Africa at large.The relationship that I maintain with my own personal history or histories and to history as a larger entity permits me to formulate a critical acquisition to write the concept of exitism. Exitism is a representation that is largely shared with history and even with practices at times. As the material of my work is always simple. I use historical facts that I interpret through the prediction of scene. Through these frontal images I expose my body that I use as a metaphor for the relationship between the human being and the world at large. My work sets up a direct relationship that centered on the world the field of society and politics.

Excerpts from Global Feminisms: Michèle Magema 2010

Colors As Feelings ©2014

 “…I explore and engage an exacerbated femininity in my art. The useof my own body is inspired by the complexity of the woman and how these are expressed.By using my African-French identity, I offer an image of the contemporary woman, firstwith the exiting, the exities that is often imposed by history. In consequence, this grandliberty of action and expression allows me to subtly combat a number of prejudices.My feminine identity is at the center of my work. In effect the feminine is representedas a metaphor for the human being. The expression of this feminine identity despite, proof time,memory and history reflect the image of the woman with a new identity that is totally attached from exitism.”

Excerpts from Global Feminisms: Michèle Magema 2010

Fleurs de Lys

 


Artist Statement
Michèle Magema’s work exists within an intermediary zone, a sort of mental space, or a frontier that she has produced and that she situate within the Southern and the Northern.

Her feminine identity is at the center of her work. In effect, the feminine is represented as a metaphor for the human being. The exploration of this feminine identity displaced through time, memory, and history, reflects the image of a woman with a new identity that is totally detached from exoticism.

Then in the midst of these dual metamorphoses, the double character image follows a parallel line to her dual cultural identity. The artist uses historical facts that she interprets through the production of scenes.

The material of her work is always simple. She uses historical facts that she interpret through the production of scenes. Through these frontal images, she exposes her body that she uses as a metaphor for the relationship between the human being and the world at large. Her work sets up a direct relationship that certainly covers the field of society and politics, but it also relates to existentialism, and even anthropology.