Profile of the Week | Ng’endo Mukii

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Portrait by Bilsel Battal

Ng’endo Mukii is an award-winning Kenyan filmmaker whose work ranges from animations to documentaries. Born and raised in Kenya, she also undertook further education in UK and USA. Yellow Fever which was featured on Ciné Kenya previously here, is a short film that has become her most well known work and has seen her attend a range of festivals over the past year. It explores the theme of skin bleaching in Africa.

Yellow Fever, her thesis project work from the Royal College of Art (RCA) in the UK, is an animation that is based on real interviews and memories. In particular, the responses from her niece regarding the subject  of skin colour and the privilege afforded to those with light or white complexions are very touching and insightful. It was while previously studying illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design in the US that Ng’endo first tried out some video and animation projects.

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Ng’endo spoke to Business Daily Africa about the impetus behind the Yellow Fever project,

I interviewed my family asking questions about our physical appearance as African women. Even though I was only focusing on them, it’s supposed to have wider view of what is going on in Kenya. Using animation instead of a camera also made it a lot easier to talk to my niece because she was about six at the time and the things she ended up saying were really sensitive.

Media: Hand-drawn animation, computer animation, pixilation, live action.

Mukii delineates the inspiration in her synopsis for the film,

I am interested in the concept of skin and race, in the ideas and theories sown into our flesh that change with the arc of time. I believe that skin and the body, are often distorted into a topographical division between reality and illusion. The idea of beauty has become globalised, creating homogenous aspirations, and distorting people’s self-image across the planet. ​In my film, I focus on African women’s self-image, through memories and interviews; using mixed media to describe this almost schizophrenic self-visualization that I and many others have grown up with.

Click here to view Travelogues, a photographic series created while experimenting on Yellow Fever. Mukii beautifully combined panoramic photographs taken while traveling over 5 years with close up photography of the female body. By doing this, she internalizes the documentation of her journeys, while reflecting on 18th and 19th Century travelogues, typically written by missionaries and explorers traversing Africa.

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This reflects on the ‘danger of the single story’ wonderfully delineated by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her popular TED Talk where she explains how Europeans often exaggerated or simply fabricated their descriptions of the physical appearance of African people in order to embellish facts for the purposes of propaganda, fear-mongering and the fostering of racism in order to justify colonization. The cruelty of their enterprise in reference to the themes explored in Yellow Fever is exhibited by the terrible experiences of Sarah Baartman and Ota Benga.

Baartman

A caricature of Baartman drawn in the early 19th century.

Sarah Baartman was a Khoisan slave to a Dutch man living near Cape Town. Her birth name is unknown. She was fluent in at least 3 languages and was one of two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as ‘freakshow’ attractions in 19th century Europe due to what were considered ‘unusual’ features – large buttocks (steatopygia) and elongated labia. Once her novelty had worn thin, she turned to drinking heavily and prostitution. She died of unknown causes in 1815. Her body was then used for scientific research. In 1994, President Nelson Mandela requested for her remains to be returned to South Africa from France. It was not until 2002 that France acceded to the request.

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Ota Benga at the Bronx Zoo in 1906.

Ota Benga was a Congolese Mbuti pygmy known for being featured with other Africans in an anthropology exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904, and later in a controversial human zoo exhibit in the Bronx Zoo in 1906. Displays of non-Western humans as examples of “earlier stages” of human evolution were common in the early 20th century, when racial theories were frequently intertwined with concepts from evolutionary biology.

View Ng’endo’s other work below:

Animation Reel

This reel demonstrates a range of Ng’endo’s work using different techniques. It combines multiple pieces, some of which are part of larger projects such as Nairobi Advertising Campaigns, music videos and children’s animated stories as well as some personal and experimental projects.

The Maze

This piece embodies the recorded voice of an anonymous woman, recalling her first understandings of a gas mask. It is a light-hearted yet poignant recollection that points to the deeper darkness of war, hate and ignorance. This was created using a sound recording from the London Imperial War Museum sound archives.

Untitled: Dust

​A textured weaving reflecting on experience of South Africa when first visiting during the 2010 World Cup.

Part 01 of a two part series.

Desert Haze

A dream-scape of cyclic repetition. People, animals, wild and domestic await the promise of ritual heat. This animation was made in collaboration with Juliette Goddard, using a series of her paintings and animating them. Please check out her work here.

See below for upcoming screenings of Yellow Fever:

Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) Zanzibar 29th June – 7th July, 2013

T-mobile New Horizons International Film Festival, Warsaw, Poland 18th – 28th July, 2013

15 Festival International de Cine de Derechos Humanos, Buenos Aires, Argentina 7th – 14th August 2013

Underexposed Film Festival in Rock Hill, YC, South Carolina, USA 15th – 16th November 2013

This Is England Film Festival, France 27th – 29th November 2013

Ng’endo has won numerous awards for Yellow Fever. Including ‘Best Animation’ at the 7th Kenya International Film Festival, ‘Best Short Film’ at the 2013 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, Special Mention in ‘The Prize of the Ecumenical Jury’ Oberhausen International Short Film Festival and has been screened widely including at CinemAfrica SwedenFilm Africa Festival (London), Kino 10: Imagining Africa, The Barber Institute of Fine ArtsAfrica in Motion film Festival (Edinburgh), Colours of the Nile Film Festival, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (nominated for Best Short Film Award), AfrikaEye Film Festival (Bristol, UK), World Arts Film Festival, (Florida USA), Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center African American Film Festival (Seattle, USA), Images of Black Women Film Festival (London, UK) and Galway African Film Festival, (Galway, Ireland).

3 thoughts on “Profile of the Week | Ng’endo Mukii

  1. Pingback: Kenyan Films at Durban International Film Festival 18 – 28 July 2013 | Ciné Kenya

  2. Pingback: Kenyan Films at Durban International Film Festival 18 – 28 July 2013 | Ciné Kenya

  3. Pingback: Storymoja Hay Festival, 19 – 22 September 2013 | Ciné Kenya

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