ATO MALINDA (Kenya)
Video On Fait Ensemble (2010). Courtesy the artist.
As part of the co-curatorial section UNDER A DIFFERENT SUN. Obscured Histories, Female Perspectives by Chiara Cartuccia & Celeste Ricci | EX NUNC.
Ato Malinda, On Fait Ensemble (2010). Still from the video. Courtesy the artist.
A native of Kenya,
Ato Malinda (born 1981) grew up in Nairobi, Amsterdam and the Unites States,
where she pursued her undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology at the
University of Texas, Austin. Her works
consist of performance, drawing, painting, installation, video, and ceramic
object-making. Through her diverse practice, Malinda investigates the hybrid
nature of African identity, contesting notions of authenticity, as well as
focuses on gender and sexuality.
The VENICE INTERNATIONAL
PERFORMANCE ART WEEK presents the video On Fait Ensemble (2010) about Mami Wata, an ancient
African water spirit, who has been worshipped by Africans before the arrival of
the Europeans but came into recorded history only in the 15th Century. It was recorded that at the sight of European ships, Africans
associated water spirits with the Europeans. During colonialism in the 1880s,
the famous German hunter Breitwieser, brought back a wife from Southeast Asia
to Germany. Breitwieser’s wife performed in Hamburg’s Völkerschau (essentially
human zoos), under the stage name “Maladamatjaute”, charming snakes. The Adolph
Friedländer lithographic company in Hamburg made a chromolithograph of the
snake charmer, the original of which has never been found. However in 1955,
this image was reprinted in Bombay, India after it had been sent to them from
Ghana. It is still unknown how exactly the image got to West Africa, but it is
thought to have been taken there from Hamburg by African sailors when they were
in Germany. On its arrival in Africa, locals declared Maladamatjaute to be a
resemblance to Mami Wata. The image has since proliferated throughout the
African continent as Mami Wata, the snake charmer. On Fait Ensemble suggests in a metaphorical sense that this image
came from the Europeans. This is done through the market performance of Papai
Wata. Papai Wata, who is the concomitant to Mami Wata in Beninese traditional
ceremonies, symbolizes the European man and is depicted in the video by a white