Sungi Mlengeya: Just Disruptions

Afriart Gallery, Kampala, Uganda
19 Jun 2021 - 19 Aug 2021

Sungi Mlengeya, Contemplation, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, Courtesy Afriart Gallery

Sungi Mlengeya, Contemplation, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, Courtesy Afriart Gallery

Just Disruptions is a debut solo exhibition, inviting to look closely and intently at Sungi Mlengeya’s canonical works. She has developed a distinct style, striking a balance between scarcity and abundance which ruptures into a force, coursing through Sungi’s artistic choices and her point of activism, for the rightful existence and representation of women in East Africa and beyond. Mlengeya platforms her figures onto the totality of white spaces, untethered from individual and societal expectations that plot a web of oppressive narratives across/onto the lived and embodied experiences of black women. These white spaces can serve as a way to recognize freedom as an uncanny element – something familiar yet unknown.

The strain between the distant dream and the current foreboding void (mist) pulsates across Mlengeya’s work, propelling us, the viewer, from one stage of change into another. Here, change happens in a linear forward movement. Mlengeya borrows from the metaphor of transformation to reveal the complexity of unpacking the visible and invisible layers that shroud questions of gender equality in East Africa. Mlengeya’s works resonate across a broad range of identities, a testament to her thorough exploration of justice as an intersectional question. Radically centering her subjects for our attention, the artist invites us to disrupt our normative belief that historically marginalizes black women. The entry-point to Sungi Mlengeya’s work is manifold. This element of discovery is projected across the exhibition space in Just Disruptions, mapped across the floor in enclosed rooms. Each “cell” contains a moment within the process of transformation, a necessary step within the movement forward, towards equity and empowerment. A tempered flow across time and space mimics the biological (process of) metamorphosis. You enter into a space, your assimilation and growth with this understanding leads you to the exit, towards yet another moment of transformation.

Mlengeya strips the language of feminism in East Africa to its bare minimum, shedding jargon used by colonial development structures in their attempt to co-opt the movement towards equity. What we see is a rightful and just representation of a woman from this region, that is distinct in her character and universal in her humanity. The resonance of Mlengeya’s work is a testament to how thoroughly she explores the intersectionality to the questions of justice. Radically centering the subject of our attention, we’re invited to disrupt our normative belief that marginalizes black women. Her works offer a moment of contemplation and invite a dialogue with ourselves – where do we stand in the spectrum of justice and accountability. Mlengeya’s body of work presented in Just Disruptions marks a shift in her practice. It is a thorough introduction to the dynamism of the women in her paintings, in their ability to move and take space. As a home-based solo, this show aims to become a fertile ground unto which Mlengeya’s practice launches explosively, traversing new and exciting spaces across the artistic landscape.



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