Sugarcane is Sweetest at the Joint
In her first exhibition at the Mindy Solomon Gallery, Malaika Temba explores concepts of labor, creativity, exploitation, and beauty. Temba’s multiculturalism and Tanzanian lineage connect her strongly to the history of agriculture, trucking, and trade — activities that are eccentrically traditional, maximalist and colorful, unassimilated into the mass-produced commerce more familiar to the west. Addressing these ideas in a fine art setting places them within a context that recognizes and celebrates the art that is inherent in all genuinely human activity.
Temba’s works speak to ideas of craft, multiculturalism and place – whether it be transitory or permanent. Her work is a distillation of global, political and emotional ideas via innovative combinations of media and processes.
Using textile as a visual language, Temba creates brightly colored woven and knit fabrics as well as large-scale fabric collages that contain silk-screen printed fragmented text.
She works by writing from research and experiences, translating textual ideas into visual ones, and expressing these essential ideas in immersive, experiential ways. Paint, stamps, stencils and spray paint over woven and silk-screened fabrics convey historical truths in a contemporary platform.
Temba reflects that “Elezyia Mshimbika means an offering for your ancestors. There is a place in the garden where you pour out a traditional brew in remembrance, but in this case I’m presenting my own kind of offering to my grandmothers.” For the most practical, grounded and hardworking of women: a truckload of goods, tangible products of physical effort, and a testament to their lifelong labor. At this large scale, day to day objects look dignified and almost regal, and as fabric they are comforting and soft, referencing the softness that is societally and historically expected to come with women’s labor. The works are an offering to say “We dearly and deeply hope you don’t have to lift a finger in heaven” to the women who have done far too much work for others around them; and to say to everyone else, ‘Marvel at what these women have created!”
Strongly personal, deeply political, Temba’s work is a celebration and a cautionary tale. Labor and language have value; to express, to acknowledge and to explore. The tangible results of physical labor have meaning and speak to us – they express beauty but also exploitation, joy and sorrow. Emotional labor yields both love and suffering. Temba’s multi-leveled and layered textiles are a literal expression of her passion to explore and dissect these multiple levels of meaning in the world.
About Malaika Temba
Malaika Temba is a textile artist based in New York. She is highly influenced by art at the intersection of visuals and sound. Outside of her studio practice at Mana Contemporary, Malaika has worked as Assistant Art Director at fashion company Pyer Moss, and as a design consultant at The Shop at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in
Harlem. Malaika is originally from D.C. and Tanzania, and graduated with a BFA in Textiles from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Malaika has been moving since infancy – to Saudi Arabia, Uganda, South Africa, Morocco, then Maryland. She went to an arts high school, participated in the life-changing YoungArts Week, moved to Rhode Island to attend RISD, and now lives in Harlem, NY.
Malaika has worked for contemporary artists including Jim Drain and Kenya (Robinson). Her work has been on view during Miami Art Week, at the 2019 MET Gala, and on the runway at New York Fashion Week.