Kimathi Donkor, Kombi Continua (Scenes from the life of Njinga Mbandi) - detail, 2010. Oil on Linen. Image courtesy the artist.
About Queens of the Undead
‘These paintings resurrect the undead glory of charismatic black women who each helped define the modern world, and are revered as amazing armed heroines in their homelands – a lot like Joan of Arc. Of course, I enjoy quoting imagery from their own times, but I also want to reflect the turbulent power such bold figures still exert on our contemporary imagination.’ Kimathi Donkor
‘Queens of the Undead’ is a series of six works exploring the possibilities of figurative painting through the filters of history, legend and myth. Each painting is at once a contemporary portrait, an exploration of art history and an evocation of a historic female commander / royal figurehead from Africa or its Diasporas, celebrated for their place in liberation struggles.
The works are dedicated to the life of Queen Njinga Mbandi who led her armies against the Portuguese empire in Angola; Harriet Tubman, the underground railroad leader who freed 70 people from U.S. slavery in the 1850s; Queen Nanny who led the Maroon guerrillas that fought the British in 1700s Jamaica; and in what is now Ghana, the 20th-century anti-colonial commander-in-chief, Yaa Asantewaa.
Research texts written by David Dibosa (Chelsea College of Art & Design) and Carol Tulloch (University of the Arts) are displayed alongside the paintings, adding context and making reference to histories which might not be so apparent.
About the artist’s work
Kimathi Donkor’s work is constructed through extensive research both into history and the ideologically loaded genres of Western oil painting. The artist explores portraiture, narrative and art historical themes in his paintings, creating a body of work often conceived in dialogue with other artists from David and Velazquez, to Sargent and Bowling. This will be the first complete exhibition of painting to date at Rivington Place.
Talks and events programme
A series of events exploring art’s relationship to history and contemporary politics accompanies the exhibition.
Sat 20 October, 3pm
Two young people give a tour in response to the Kimathi Donkor exhibition. Join us for the chance to hear new and original opinions about issues raised by Queens of the Undead. The New Opinions tour is free and for all audience, just turn up.
Sat 27 October, 2-4pm
A fun and interactive photography workshop led by visual artist Othello De’Suoza-Hartley offering the chance for adults and children to explore and create together. The workshop has been designed in response to the Kimathi Donkor exhibition, giving families an opportunity to explore the themes of the show together.
Sat 17th November, 1- 5pm
Memory Styx: Masterclass with Kimathi Donkor
Memory Styx is a one-day drawing masterclass open to young people between 16-24. This is a unique opportunity for young people to work directly with the artist Kimathi Donkor, whose current exhibition Queens of the Undead is showing at Rivington Place. Limited spaces available. £5.
Groups are invited to participate in engaging Iniva-led tours of the exhibition to further explore the themes of Queens of the Undead. Tours last ½ hour and also provide information about Iniva and other resources available. Exhibition tours are provided for a fee of £25 and can be booked at the following times: Monday-Friday 10.00-1.00pm.
Groups are invited to participate in a tour of the exhibition (see above) followed by a short art-focused workshop where they will work in partnership with an artist educator to produce a collaborative response to the show. Students will engage with the practice of contemporary portraiture and will address themes of cultural, social and political identity in relation to contemporary life in London, as experienced by young people. Artist-led workshops last 1 ½ hours and cost £75. We can also provide tailor-made workshops for schools on request.