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Penda Diakité at UTA Artist Space

Penda Diakité, Nana Trouba, 2023

UTA Artist Space presents Mansa Musso, an exhibition of large-scale paintings and mixed-media collage work by Malian-American artist Penda Diakité. Mansa Musso, or She is King, is a celebration of the women who played integral roles in the creation of the Mali Empire. Throughout her practice, Diakité meshes the vibrant colors and patterns of her Malian heritage with influences of her American upbringing as a reflection of her experience as a bicultural Black woman. There will be an opening reception on Friday, May 19, 2023, 6-8PM. The exhibition runs May 19 till June 17.

Diakité was born in 1992 in Portland, Oregon, to artists. She grew up between the United States and Mali, where she learned West African history and traditional Malian arts such as bogolanfini (mudcloth) painting. At age 10, she published her first children’s book, I Lost My Tooth In Africa, with Scholastic Press and her storytelling quickly merged into film and the visual arts. From a lifetime spent among griots and storytellers in Mali, Diakité created from the words of her people a body of work depicting life-size portraits of influential women in West Africa. The magical realism of these narratives, some dating back to the 11th century, is translated into evocative scenes layered with material and symbols.

“Many of the histories of the women of Mali have been overshadowed by kings, yet behind the scenes these remarkable women were the true wealth, backbone and driving force that transformed West Africa—from founding cities, winning and ending wars, to building empires. Without their contribution, there would be no West Africa as we know it today,” says Diakité.

The new body of work at UTA Artist Space was two years in the making; however, the stories included in the series were gathered over lifetimes. The wood-paneled canvases incorporate acrylic, oil, gold leaf, hand engravings and collage, and portray and pay homage to important African women in history. Through narratives recounted by the artist, such as the story of Sogolon, whose son Sundiata Keita brought unity and prosperity to Mali, Diakité immortalizes events and persons through storytelling and the visual arts.

“We’re thrilled to present Penda’s newest body of work at UTA Artist Space. We’ve followed her practice for some time now and had the opportunity to watch this particular series take shape over the past year. A true storyteller, Penda’s Mansa Musso is an offering to generations past and present.”

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