Shades of Skin 2001
About This Work
These four stills from Ingrid Mwangi’s video Shades of Skin explore what it means to be a global citizen.
Mwangi’s art centers on what she calls her “hyphenated” identity—she was born in Kenya but has lived in Germany since she was a teenager. By altering her body or images of it, Mwangi challenges narrow ideas about race and also evokes the histories of slavery, the colonization of Africa, and the African Diaspora.
Each still in this series offers a close-up of one piece of Mwangi’s body: her head, back, thighs, and dangling feet. As the series progresses, the skin tone darkens against the unchanging, clinical background.
The artist achieves a collective tension across the separate images through their individual details: the hands in prayer, scars on the back, one hand grabbing a thigh, and feet hovering over what seems to be a rough coastline (actually a cloth). The scars in particular reference not only the strained relationship between European countries and their former colonies but also African scarification rituals.