RUSUNUNGUKO (liberty / independence / freedom), 2024


(liberty / independence / freedom),


Title of the work: RUSUNUNGUKO (liberty / independence / freedom), 2024

Medium: Cut matte adhesive vinyl

Dimensions: Variable, site specific work

Designer and visual artist Nontsikelelo Mutiti is the assistant professor and director of graduate studies in graphic design at the Yale School of Art.  Mutiti’s printed works, films, and installations engage with the history and aesthetics of hair braiding in black life. “Ruka” (Shona for “to weave, braid, or knit”) brings social binding alongside physical braiding; the arrangements of salons, living rooms, and porches where hair is braided provide social contexts for her projects. 

Recent exhibitions activate Mutiti’s attention to architectural details that decorate the façades and exteriors of brownstone buildings in Brooklyn. With braids designed to echo these details Mutiti introduces structural function to their ornamental applications.

The latest braid iterations tendril like vines out of the Domed apex of Yale’s Schwarzman Center. Moments of “kududunura” or “undoing” appear where strands of braids loosen and shoot off their tightened centers. Ruka and Kududunura reframe and question the aesthetic foundations of the building, toeing the delicate balance between being “of” and “outside of” these structures to reveal braiding’s potential for transformative space making.

Featured image:

RUSUNUNGUKO (liberty / independence / freedom), 2024, by Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Photo: Sarah Ficca