As a painter and performance artist, Cassi Namoda explores the intricacies of social dynamics and mixed cultural and racial identity. Capturing scenes of everyday life, from mundane moments to life-changing events, Namoda paints a vibrant and nuanced portrait of post-colonial Mozambique within an increasingly globalised world.
Having studied cinematography, Namoda deftly captures scenes which seem like film stills: fleeting snapshots within much larger narratives. Her paintings range from bustling, faceless crowds to close-up individual portraits and her characters often stare out of the paintings, locking eyes with the viewer and breaking the fourth wall. A recurring figure within her cast of characters is a woman named Maria who is by turns gentle, ill-tempered, vivacious and melancholic, acting as a multifaceted symbol of femininity in contemporary Africa.
Interweaving her own memories and imagination with images from archival photographs and the works of other artists, Namoda reflects on the cultural specificity of Mozambique, her birthplace and home for several years. She often uses East African proverbs in the titles of her paintings and frequently includes references to local institutions and places such as the Mozambican region of Gurué where her grandfather grew up.
Through her examination of life in Mozambique, Namoda makes a broader comment on human experience. With broad brushstrokes of colour painted in a bold palette, Namoda draws the viewer into the interior lives of her characters, expressing their joys, fear, love and pain. The backgrounds in her works, often depicted in a single colour, establish a sense of mood and atmosphere rather than indicating a specific location.
Alongside her painting practice, Namoda also stages performances which bring together the themes present in her paintings. In Tea of Nostalgia, performed at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, Namoda steeped Mozambican tea leaves in a colonial tea set, a gesture which united past and present as the artist asserted her place within her family history while also forming a new relationship with audience.