Kimathi Mafafo’s practice in painting and embroidery work is a raw articulation of two mediums that have embodied the Black woman and/or female’s body within the tradition of woman’s work. This woman’s work I suggest is informed by how the approach to her subject matter alludes to a disclosure of transgressions of the past, the present and future. In these, she creates a tension between becoming and being, concealing and revealing, retreating and showing up, all of which are an embodiment of the arduous negotiations Black women have to make in navigating their existence in society.
In her recent work there is a sense of becoming evidently marked through a gradual transition of the materiality of the work; its move from two dimensionality to more three dimensional work. Previously it seems two dimensionality was a critical integrant of presenting the illusion of concealing and revealing femininity in Mafafo’s work and her navigation through Black womanhood. However, this oscillation appears to have since evolved into a more strategic placement of an artistic language that starts to articulate a kind of woman’s work that is specific to the condition of being a Black woman and/or female. This is not to make the Black woman and/or female condition seem exceptional to other women or women of colour, or timid as she is sometimes depicted in Mafafo’s work, but rather as an important symbol of how societal structures have marginalised, dehumanised and disenfranchised certain women. By a kind of woman’s work, I am not only suggesting that Mafafo’s artistic repertoire is part of a lexicon of creative work done by Black women as a vehicle towards a cathartic activity, but also one that is specific to the condition of being Black and a woman and/or female. It is also important to note that woman’s work does not make a gender distinction between work that man do as opposed to that which women do, rather it is referring to how there is a particular kind of intellectual meditative state of being that requires making certain kind of work through a creative process that women have pioneered. --"This Woman’s Work: A Rrief Reading of Kimathi Mafafo’s artwork", Dr. Same Mdluli – artist, arts writer and historian