Manyaku Mashilo embraces the art of portraiture to lay claim on tales lost. Spurred on by a love of story-telling inherited from her own matrilineal heritage, Mashilo tasked herself with the quest of undertaking the archival of black life. Lives she then channels through a multitude of questions and recalibrated beliefs that result in the sacred space of her offerings to her chosen portrait subjects.
Focusing specifically on the technique of portraiture, with its depth and dedication to capturing an exactness; Mashilo immortalizes the details of each of these faces, and in doing so, honors their existence in every aspect. By paying such close attention to her people, Mashilo draws on the pathways of their history that form the very makeup of their being. The focus here is sincere and sacrosanct in it’s undertaking; it is imperative for her as an artist to capture blackness, as there is a known history of dismissal, misconstruing and racism that has formed tall walls between black bodies and the art begotten from them.
Manyaku actively seeks to do more than explore these bodies; she seeks to represent them as they are, and then remove them to be justly elevated beyond their given circumstances. Over and above the act of recording, of creating a space to be seen and revered, Mashilo creates a space that transcends the reality from within which these subjects have been called from. That space that she’s carved out, she shares immediately with those whose stories she hones in on, and this space is so defined by its distance from wherein these bodies would usually be scrutinized. This space transcends even further when contextualized with the syzygy of the subject and the planets, stardust, and patternmaking Mashilo surrounds them with to complete her homage. The space her pieces live in is engulfed in texture, shape, and glittering gold. Here they are seen as Mashilo knows they should be; with pause, with awe, and with triumph.