Date of Award

5-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department/Program

English

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Patricia Matthew

Committee Member

Johnny Lorenz

Committee Member

Laura Nicosia

Subject(s)

Wangechi Mutu, Afrofuturism, Grotesque in art

Abstract

Stellar Transformations of Disabled Bodies: Wangechi Mutu and Afrofuturism will examine how Kenyan-born artist Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972) depicts futuristic black bodies. Utilizing three of her collages, Untitled (Leopard woman reclining) (2010), My Strength Lies (2006), and Homeward Bound (2010), I will analyze Mutu’s themes of Afrofuturistic alienation and the grotesque. I will use Afrofuturism and Mutu’s renderings to reveal a future visibility for the black female body.

Mutu collages images from fashion magazines, car manuals, National Geographic , and catalogs to construct bodies with missing limbs and severed appendages. Critics have called these bodies “grotesque”, whereas Mutu has called her bodies “disabled”. I will be using both terms “grotesque” and “disabled” in conjunction with black grotesquerie to examine Mutu’s vision of a black female body in the future. With black grotesquerie, I will explore the connection between Mutu’s own labor as a collagist, her Africanness, and the construction of her composite female bodies. The theme of Afrofuturistic alienation will be examined by analyzing the backdrops of each collage as they relate to the black female body’s historical and future sites of habitation. My analysis of each backdrop will highlight questions of ecocriticism and body/land politics pervasive in all of Mutu’s collages. Afrofuturistic alienation will be cyborged out of “homelessness” and into an abducted alienation as a way to create a site of habitation for the self-curated black body. Cyborged will refer to the physical manipulation required by Mutu to create black female bodies in the future, both theoretically and materially. With her use of popular magazines and her own physical dissection of popular culture, Mutu offers us a self-curated black body living and being in the future.

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