Young Painter Cassi Namoda Depicts Daily Life (and Love) in Mozambique for Her First London Solo Show

The show at Pippy Houldsworth gallery presents images culled from memory, imagination, and history.

Cassi Namoda, Ritual Prayer in Ibo Island (2019). Courtesy of Pippy Houldsworth Gallery.
Cassi Namoda, Ritual Prayer in Ibo Island (2019). Courtesy of Pippy Houldsworth Gallery.

The young artist Cassi Namoda is of many nations.

Born in 1988, she was raised between her native Mozambique; Haiti; and the United States. Today, she lives and works in Los Angeles.  

The artist’s easily worn sense of cultural fluidity is readily apparent in her first London solo show, titled “Little Is Enough for Those in Love,” at Pippy Houldsworth gallery.

In a series of new paintings that explore life and love in her birth city of Maputo, she depicts weddings, children, and everyday life in scenes taken from archival photographs and her own memories and imagination.

Cassi Namoda, Untitled (Conjoined Twins) (2019). Cassi Namoda, Little Is Enough For Those in Love (2019). Courtesy of Pippi Houldsworth Gallery.

Cassi Namoda, Untitled (Conjoined Twins) (2019). Courtesy of Pippy Houldsworth Gallery.

The exhibition, which opens on January 23, takes its title from an East African proverb which says that luxuries are unnecessary for those who are in love.

That sentiment is underscored by Namoda’s technique: she forgoes detail, working instead with broad, simple shapes to almost folkloric effect. The simplicity—even frugality—of the images allows the stories to capture our attention.

In Untitled (Conjoined Twins), a mother in a red beret rests her hand and head against her swaddled twins, who are conjoined at the head. The image is startlingly tender, but also full of anxiety. Yet perhaps the circumstances are not so grim: the twins, or figures who look very much like them, appear in another painting, watching a wedding in the distance.

Cassi Namoda, Family Portrait in Gurué (2019). Courtesy of Pippi Houldsworth Gallery.

Cassi Namoda, Family Portrait in Gurué (2019). Courtesy of Pippy Houldsworth Gallery.

The exhibition also quietly points to the histories and legacies of colonialism.

In Ritual Prayer in Ibo Island, figures kneel before what appears to be a textile of local origin while a man on the far right holds a white cross. In another picture, a bride and groom wear western wedding garments: a white dress, and a suit and top hat.

For the exhibition, Namoda will bring these legacies to life in a performance in which she steeps tea leaves harvested from the region of Gurúè, which she will then serve with a colonial tea set.

Through this communal and ritual act, Namoda intends to bridge the past with the present, while returning herself to a place of control over colonial narratives, acting as an arbiter of her ancestral history while sharing her experience with her audience.

Cassi Namoda, Smiling Woman in Angoche (2019). Courtesy of Pippi Houldsworth Gallery.

Cassi Namoda, Smiling Woman in Angoche (2019). Courtesy of Pippy Houldsworth Gallery.

“Cassi Namoda: A Little Is a Lot for Those in Love” is on view at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in London from January 24–March 7, 2020.


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