Opening Reception: Friday, May 19, 2023, 6-8PM
(Beverly Hills, CA – May 10, 2023) UTA Artist Space presents Mansa Musso, an exhibition of large-scale paintings and mixed-media collage work by Malian-American artist Penda Diakité. Mansa Musso, or She is King, is a celebration of the women who played integral roles in the creation of the Mali Empire. Throughout her practice, Diakité meshes the vibrant colors and patterns of her Malian heritage with influences of her American upbringing as a reflection of her experience as a bicultural Black woman.
Diakité was born in 1992 in Portland, Oregon, to artists. She grew up between the United States and Mali, where she learned West African history and traditional Malian arts such as bogolanfini (mudcloth) painting. At age 10, she published her first children’s book, I Lost My Tooth In Africa, with Scholastic Press and her storytelling quickly merged into film and the visual arts. From a lifetime spent among griots and storytellers in Mali, Diakité created from the words of her people a body of work depicting life-size portraits of influential women in West Africa. The magical realism of these narratives, some dating back to the 11th century, is translated into evocative scenes layered with material and symbols.
“Many of the histories of the women of Mali have been overshadowed by kings, yet behind the scenes these remarkable women were the true wealth, backbone and driving force that transformed West Africa—from founding cities, winning and ending wars, to building empires. Without their contribution, there would be no West Africa as we know it today,” says Diakité.
The new body of work at UTA Artist Space was two years in the making; however, the stories included in the series were gathered over lifetimes. The wood-paneled canvases incorporate acrylic, oil, gold leaf, hand engravings and collage, and portray and pay homage to important African women in history. Through narratives recounted by the artist, such as the story of Sogolon, whose son Sundiata Keita brought unity and prosperity to Mali, Diakité immortalizes events and persons through storytelling and the visual arts.
“We’re thrilled to present Penda’s newest body of work at UTA Artist Space. We’ve followed her practice for some time now and had the opportunity to watch this particular series take shape over the past year. A true storyteller, Penda’s Mansa Musso is an offering to generations past and present.”
ABOUT PENDA DIAKITÉ
Malian-American artist Penda Diakité grew up between Mali, West Africa and Portland, Oregon. Her artwork meshes the vibrant colors and patterns of her Malian heritage with influences of her American upbringing, and is a reflection of her experiences as a bicultural black woman. Diakité was first introduced to painting as a child in Mali, as she learned traditional bogolanfini (mud-cloth) painting. At age 10, she published her first award-winning children’s book with Scholastic Press, which was the catalyst for creatively expressing her identity and delving deeper into the life she straddled between Mali and the USA. Penda graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in Film/Video and a minor in Cultural Studies. While earning her degree, she developed her unique mixed media collage style which, like her film work, centers around identity. Following her experimental film shorts, which screened in festivals internationally, Penda began exhibiting her artwork in numerous galleries on the West and East Coast. Diakité is currently based in Los Angeles.
ABOUT UTA ARTIST SPACE
Since the establishment of its flagship Beverly Hills location in 2018, UTA Artist Space has been committed to showcasing art by globally recognized talent. With the opening of an Atlanta location in spring 2023, UTA Artist Space expands its impressive vision and reach across the United States. The original location has presented notable exhibitions with interdisciplinary artists and creatives, including Enrique Martinez Celaya, Mandy El-Sayegh, Conrad Egyir, The Estate of Ernie Barnes, Essence Harden, Ferrari Sheppard, and Ai Weiwei, among others.
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