Voodoo Womxn

Leah Jasmine found the shroud of femininity she needed in Kat Kali’s Voodoo Womxn exhibition. Maybe you will too?

 

 

I was intrigued by Kat Kali’s instagram handle before I had a clue who she was; @your_dads_sex_face is not something you see every day. When she messaged me privately I thought our stars had aligned, I knew I had to meet someone bold enough to parade such discomfort. She invited me to check out her exhibition Voodoo Womxn at ArtSPACE and I immediately jumped to make a plan. What ensued was a week of pandemonium and chaos, featuring plenty of tears and the breaking of my heart and my kidneys. The logistics of our rendezvous became increasingly difficult.

 

Finally, one Saturday, a painful Saturday in which my spirit sort of broke, I managed to gather up the pieces of myself and ascended the steps through the coffee shop and into the gallery, into the future of womanhood, into a shroud of femininity that I knew I needed.

 

I got to walk around the exhibition before the artist arrived, and the soft pastel colours contrasted with dark subject matter started to feed and stitch my soul. When Kat arrived we sat down to speak and it was difficult to distinguish between interview and two witches just talking. I told her about my heartbreak, and my disappointment in men. For a while, we commiserated, trying to figure out how to pay homage to our strengths. We spoke about what it means to work as a woman, how many hours we pour into the things that we love and how little gratitude we receive. Choosing a creative path to support yourself is one of the most difficult things someone can do, and as a woman, it can be even more difficult to be taken seriously. There seems to be a perception that if you’re doing what you love to make money then you’re not really “working”, and that’s simply not true. Our oil burns long into the night, our creations do not simply appear from our love, it is a labour.

 

The exhibition explores the subtleties of being woman; our identities that have been shaped for us, the emotional labour we experience, and the future of a post-feminist world. Kat’s work varies in medium, from ink to acrylic and sculpture, with each their own message to speak.

 

 

Kat Kali is one of the rare people on this planet with synesthesia, which is the experience of seeing visual representations of auditory experiences. Listening to Princess Nokia on repeat, Kat used this unique condition to paint abstract pieces in acrylic. Princess Nokia is a Womxn of Colour who expresses her own take on gender through her music, and she’s representative of a shift in power dynamics taking place globally. The iconoclast is inspiring a movement of women who are unafraid of who and what they are, who don’t feel the need to fit into the tight box we’ve been pressed into, and Kat’s pieces, albeit abstract, certainly represent that.

 

 

Her painted sculptures include a Bandit Rabbit, a creature known for its cutesy cuddliness portraying power in vulnerability – “If you embrace your shadows you can draw superhero strength from the struggles that created them. Alchemy.” A painted urn, the small container intended for human remains, a double entendre of what it means to earn a living and have your life placed inside of something of your own creation.

 

 

The enormous painting of Roger Federer, a figurehead of masculinity in our white hetero-capitalist patriarchy, is designed to make cishet white men uncomfortable. It features him in a pink shirt, surrounded by pink flamingoes and soft botanicals, removing him from his magazine cover shrine and placing him in the context women have been shoved into. I imagine the discomfort an older, cishet white man might experience seeing this, and consider how fragile the idea of masculinity really is, how its constructions have been imposed on the world around us.

 

The third notable medium is her drawings, which are far less abstract and more directly deal with the issue of emotional labour. Traditionally, women have been expected to bear the brunt of emotional labour in relationships, taking more of a toll than we’re often willing to admit. She shares that sometimes being told that you’re loved just isn’t enough when you consider how much effort you’ve put in to be loved. Sometimes it’s better to be thanked than to be loved, because love is easy, effort is effort. That piece really spoke to me because it reminded me of all the things I had done in my relationship to feel deserving of love, and no, sometimes love simply isn’t enough.

 

 

She shares what the future looks like, perhaps on some distant planet, where women live alone and please themselves, where a black womxn is president of the world.

I would have loved to see more womxn of colour represented by Kat Kali. Having been so heavily influenced and inspired by black womxn specifically, it’s important to represent the magic and strength behind some of the most marginalised people in our world.

In our discussions, we spoke about how adversity in our own lives had built character, and that those who have overcome the most vicious challenges are the ones with the power to work wonders on the world; and with all due respect perhaps that somewhere is the magic of Womxn of Colour. With a global shift in power dynamics taking place, representation is becoming increasingly important and personally, I believe that the future is feminine and diverse, and we should be reflecting that at every opportunity. Having said this, it’s also understandable that artists create subjects in their own image; artmaking is a process of catharsis after all.  

 

 

The exhibition is an ode to femininity in its expected and uncomfortable forms, showcasing the contrast that being womxn often is. We are celebrated for our softness, we owe our survival to our strength. As the mother of a little boy, Kat feels obliged to raise her son as a new generation, with a different attitude towards womxn and everything beyond cisgenderism. In a way, she says she feels the battle of the sexes is over in the same way that apartheid is over; it’s there on paper but there are a lot of attitudes that still need to change. Art like this does just that, with the intended discomfort designed to test boundaries and challenge preconceived notions of womxn and what we are supposed to be like.

 

Voodoo Womxn is open at ArtSPACE until 23 November 2017.

 

 

All images by Samora Chapman.

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