“Her hair is her adornment and her clothing is her armor” - In the works of Carol Muthiga-Oyekunle, women are portrayed as symbolic warriors, radiating strength and joy. Combining digital and mixed-media collage methods with photography and vivid graphical elements, the artist skillfully interweaves techniques to create bold and brilliant portraits of her female subjects. The resulting art depicts themes from the past, present and imagined futures, holding up a mirror to a patriarchal society.
Muthiga-Oyekunle finds inspiration for her art in her daily life - from faces on the street to close friends and women she admires. Her experimental approach involves fusing disparate elements and styles into a cohesive whole - it’s this contrast that adds a touch of magic to all her art. Her diverse, multifaceted technique draws on a wide range of classic and modern influences – everything from Klimt, Matisse, Mucha and Lichtenstein to her contemporaries Kehinde Wiley, Yinka Shonibare and Wangechi Mutu.
Recurring themes in the Paris-based, Kenyan-American artist’s creative process are culture, tradition and Afrofuturism – the artistic and philosophical movement which envisions a high-tech futuristic African diaspora, where racial equality is a reality rather than an idea. The artist herself describes her subjects as “intergalactic”.
A graduate of the London Royal College of Art, Muthiga-Oyekunle is also a successful accessories designer. Her jewelry line combines the artist’s own heritage with cutting-edge visual design.
Carol Muthiga-Oyekunle is a Kenyan-American artist and designer. In 2001 she founded her own accessory brand in New York. Carol is a graduate of the Royal College of Art London (MA Fashion) and lives and works in Paris.
Art as a personal form of expression – does that apply to you?
Yes. Art is my way of putting up a mirror to the world around me. I depict women from a position of strength, optimism, joy and triumph. They end up becoming self-portraits, somehow.
Where do you get the ideas for your art from?
From everyday life. Faces I see in the street. People I know. Women I am inspired by. Experiences. It’s really quite organic.
What is your approach to the more experimental elements of your artworks?
Being unafraid of the outcome. I love the idea of juxtaposing elements that would, seemingly, not go together. And then seeing what is revealed. Quite often, it is magical!
In your opinion, what does the mythicisation of women stand for?
The mythicisation of women serves to fill in the gaps that the patriarchal documentation of history has, conveniently, left out. It is, perhaps, our way of returning to our eternal truth, as human beings.
What does Afrofuturism represent to you and your work?
Afrofuturism re-imagines the history of the African diaspora from a technologically enhanced future. A future full of hope and optimism, one that presents a brand new narrative. I often refer to the heroine in my work as The Intergalactic, Time Traveling, Woman, or Warrior. She is the Past, the Present and the Future.