Grace Ndiritu: Labour

3 Nov-16 Dec 2023

Kate MacGarry
London E2 7HR


Kate MacGarry is delighted to announce Grace Ndiritu’s first exhibition at the gallery. Concerned with the transformation of our contemporary world, Ndiritu works across film, painting, textiles, performance and social practice. In 2012 she began creating a new body of work under the title Healing The Museum, which sets out to re-introduce non-rational healing methodologies such as shamanism to re-activate the ‘sacredness’ of art spaces.

Grace Ndiritu: Labour comprises an iteration of The Protest Room, recently exhibited as part of Ndiritu’s mid-career survey, Healing The Museum, at S.M.A.K Ghent (2023). The exhibition features Ndiritu’s film Labour: Birth of a New Museum (2023). The intimate performance invites a group of pregnant participants on a shamanic journey to discover the ‘soul’ name of their unborn child. By drawing out a new generation of creative spirits in the gallery, Ndiritu continues her exploration of non-rational methodologies within a museum context. 

Ndiritu’s shamanic performances focus on ideas of lineage and legacy, in keeping with indigenous ideas that urge humans to live and work for the benefit of future generations. Ndiritu associates motherhood with resilience and collective care. She invites visitors to gather around the carpet to feel this transformative energy. Ndiritu often links being on a physical journey through an exhibition to a sensory transformation of its space. In this way the gallery architecture is employed as a type of spiritual technology. It serves to disconnect the audience from day-to-day concerns and open them to a deeper level. Visitors are asked to remove their shoes to remain in contact with the floor, enhancing the holistic experience.

Ndiritu's early studies in textile art inspire her current use of textiles in her practice today. For Grace Ndiritu: Labour, three Protest Carpets, LAND RIGHTS (2022), WOMEN’S STRIKE (2021) and MOTHERHOOD (2022) accompany the film. They depict historically significant political marches or gatherings. Ndiritu grew up in an activist household and went to protest marches from an early age. Her mother and her friends founded the group Women in the Third World and held film screenings and anti-apartheid marches. 

As a result, Ndiritu became fascinated by the energy and aesthetics of protest, especially historical demonstrations like we see in Protest Carpet: WOMEN'S STRIKE in which we encounter the Women's liberation movement in Washington, DC, 26 August, 1970, or in the Protest Carpet: LAND RIGHTS where we see a group of protesters at the Aboriginal land rights demonstration, Parliament House, Canberra, 20 July 1972. These two historic protests are even more relevant today, considering recent political events, such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 and the 'No' vote in the Australian Referendum in October 2023, which would have given Indigenous Australians a voice in deciding their own future. 

Moreover, working with archival images Ndiritu finds solace in the work of Martha Rosler, Goshka Macuga, John Stezaker, Jeremy Deller and Marcelo Brodsky who work with black and white politically charged imagery also in their practices. The Protest Carpets are ‘activated’ through engagement. Ndiritu guides participants through collective group experiments using shamanism, meditation, word games, reading sessions or even writing love letters to enemies.

Grace Ndiritu is a British-Kenyan artist born in 1982. Ndiritu won the Jarman Film Award 2022 for her films Black Beauty and Becoming Plant. Her films have also been selected for the 72nd Berlinale (2022), BFI London Film Festival (2022) and FIDMarseille (2021). Ndiritu will be included in the group show, Making New Worlds: Li Yuan-Chia and Friends, Kettles Yard, Cambridge (2023). Recent solo exhibitions include Grace Ndiritu Reimagines the FOMU Collection, Foto Museum, Antwerp (2023); The Healing Pavilion, Wellcome Collection, London (2022); Post-Hippie Pop Abstraction, Arcade, Brussels (2022); Ghent: How to Live Together, Kunsthal Gent (2021); The Ark, Bluecoat, Liverpool (2019); A Return to Normalcy: Birth of a New Museum, Glasgow School of Art (2015); A Quest For Meaning, L'appartment 22, Rabat, Morocco (2014); Responsible Tourism/Still Life, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2007) and Grace Ndiritu, Ikon Gallery at the 51st Venice Biennale (2005).

Recent group shows include Interdependencies: Perspectives on Care and Resilience, Migros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland (2023); British Art Show 9 (2021/2022); Coventry Biennial, Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry (2021) and Our Silver City 2094, Nottingham Contemporary (2021). Recent performances include Labour: A Birth of a New Museum #3, S.M.A.K Ghent (2023); Labour: A Birth of a New Museum #2, RAMM, Exeter (2023); Women’s Strike: Healing The Museum, Bozar, Brussels (2022); Labour: A Birth of a New Museum, Nottingham Contemporary (2021); Women’s Strike: Healing The Museum, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris (2021); Healing The Museum, Africa Museum, Tervuren, Belgium (2019) and Dreaming The Museum Back To Life, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona (2017).