Screenings 6: Wangechi Mutu

Two film stills from Wangechi Mutu's video, Amazing Grace


Wangechi Mutu

Amazing Grace, 2005
Single channel video with sound
7:06 minutes

Wangechi Mutu is a leading figure in contemporary art. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Mutu studied art at Cooper Union and Yale University. She lives today in New York City. Her works in a wide variety of media—collage, sculpture, printmaking, and film—have been displayed in major venues throughout the world since the late 1990s. Often Mutu uses representations of the female body as “a platform for what we feel about ourselves as humans.” Her intricate work incorporates imagery from contemporary fashion, popular music, as well as traditional African motifs and, in this way, addresses the exoticization and hybridization that distinguish our contemporary moment. Amazing Grace (2005) is a rarely-seen, early video by Mutu that features images of a woman—the artist herself—in a gauzy, white dress as she moves from a beach into the roiling surf. The soundtrack consists of waves breaking and a voice singing in the background. The song is likely well known to American audiences; it is the 18th-century English hymn by John Newton, “Amazing Grace.” Mutu sings the spiritual in her native tongue: Kikuyu. The fluid imagery and lilting voice belie the tough implications of her performance of Amazing Grace. The artist strategically connects the song to the experience of Black Americans and the Transatlantic slave trade, making explicit the historical disjunctions in commonplace uses of the past. Amazing Grace reflects Mutu’s extraordinary gifts for creating poetically-charged, provocative imagery regardless of chosen format.


On View:

Through February 28, 2021


Humanities Center Gallery
Saints Tekakwitha and Serra Hall


By appointment only for hybrid and in-person classes.
Email to book your class screening.

*Hours are subject to guidance provided by USD's Covid-19 Action Team, and may change. Social distancing and masks are required of all visitors and reduced gallery capacities are enforced.

Images at top: Wangechi Mutu, Amazing Grace (film stills), 2005, single channel video with sound, 7:06 minutes. Images courtesy of the artist; Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; Victoria Miro Gallery; and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.



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