Lucy’s Iris

Exhibition title: Lucy’s Iris
Curator: Orlando Britto Jinorio
Dates: 26.01.2017 to 04.06.2017
Place: Casa África y CAAM. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Spain.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 9pm. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Free admission

Lucy’s Iris is an exhibition of the work of 25 contemporary African women artists living in the continent of Africa, on its islands and amid the diaspora.

The exhibition title is a metaphor alluding to the systems that impose colonial thought, and the need to overcome these systems and reinstate a viewpoint that should never have been removed. This is the reason for the reference to Lucy, the female hominid considered for many years to be the grandmother of humanity.

The Australopithecus afarensis remains commonly known as Lucy were discovered by a team of anthropologists led by Donald Johanson and Tom Gray in 1974, in the eastern region of Afar, Ethiopia. For decades Lucy was thought to be the missing link of human evolution, dating back approximately 3.2 million years.

The name Lucy is said to come from the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which was playing on the radio at the time of the discoveryBut why choose Lucy, rather than one of the many other names of important women from Africa’s numerous rich cultures, such as Sabla Wangel of Ethiopia, Hatseput, Nefertari or Cleopatra of Egypt, Makeda of Saba, Candace of Mero, Kahina of Mauritania, Amina of Hausaland, Del Wambara of Adal, Nzinga of Angola, Beatrice of Congo, Manthatisi of Lesotho, Nandi of Zululand, Ranavalona of Madagascar, Yaa Ásantewa of Ghana or Nehanda of Zimbabwe?

Why did the anthropologists have to sever the hominid’s connection with her context, removing her identity, her viewpoint and, essentially, her iris? What would Lucy’s iris actually be: her real iris, her viewpoint?

Shortly after the discovery, Lucy was renamed by the Ethiopians of Afar in their own language as Dinkenesh, which means “you are wonderful”.

This historical appropriation is the starting point for the exhibition, which symbolically gives Lucy back her viewpoint through the eyes and the offerings of a selection of major contemporary African female artists who have made a contribution and a pledge to the cultural construction of Africa.

Through works developed as installations, photography, painting, drawings, video and performance, the artists in this exhibition, who come from diverse contexts, address questions of genus, identity, ethnicity, body, frontiers, territory and environment, history, memory, politics, tradition and the present, plus other issues such as feminism, colonialism and post-colonialism, migration, displacement… Through these works, the construction of a unique “map” of the existential, conceptual and formal territories inhabited by the artists unfolds before us, revealing the multiple irises of Lucy/Dinkenesh, as numerous as the women who day by day build the rich, broad, diverse, singular, wonderful cultural and human geography that is Africa.

Lucy’s Iris was initially produced by Castilla y León Contemporary Art Museum (MUSAC), in León, and subsequently exhibited at Rochechouart Contemporary Art Museum (France). In 2017 its journey is completed with a parallel exhibition at the CAAM and Casa África.

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Egyptian artist Amal Kenawy.

Orlando Britto Jinorio
Project curator



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Presentation artists ‘Lucy’s iris’

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