Laimi Mbangula and StArt Art Gallery share a significant ‘first’. Our first exhibition in 2017 was Laimi Mbangula’s first solo show. The artist had just finished her diploma course at the College of the Arts and produced an incredible body of textile based work. Titled ‘Inside The Room’, this exhibition reflected the artist’s work with ideas of tradition and domesticity. Mbangula drew on shapes inspired by utensils, baskets and other items from her childhood to form her repeat pattern printed textiles.
“My greatest influence is my grandmother, Meekulu Foibe Linomeni, an expert basket weaver and clay pot maker, who raised me after my mother died. Meekulu taught me how to use and make traditional utensils, she was very serious about using traditional tools and she always insisted that we weave our own baskets and instructed us to be different from each other.”
Since her first solo exhibition, Mbangula has continued her studies in fine art, recently finishing a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Namibia. Like ‘Inside The Room’, her most recent body of work, ‘Baskets Reimagined’ looks at the confluence of her contemporary life and the traditional techniques she learned as a child. Her practice is cognisant of many of the techniques she learned that are often traditionally thought of as 'women's work', and seeks to explore and reflect on that.
‘Baskets reimagined’ are a series of delicate but visceral wall hangings that are inspired by traditional Ovakwanyama basket weaving. Like Mbangula’s hand-dyed and repeat pattern textiles, these artworks are labour intensive and are made using a repetitive process. The process of their making is as important as the final object because it is derived from the same meditative weaving as the original baskets that inspire them.
“I have always loved basket weaving because when I grew up, weaving was one of my everyday duties, for this reason I decided to use this medium to create art and express my feelings about my culture. I explore contemporary forms of basket weaving by combining fabric with other materials related to textiles like rope, string, wool, ribbons and thread, and through the exploration of different techniques such as stencil printing, embroidery and coiling. In this way I focus on Ovakwanyama basket patterns and the shape of a traditional serving plate (elilo), using construction techniques from different contemporary cultures, to create my body of work”. (Laimi Mbangula)