T. Elliot Mansa
My artwork is a critique of destructive, economic power dynamics within urban communities. I have chosen to use a tobacco company that holds a 78 percent market share within the black community as a demonstrative and metaphoric example of the economic forces that profit from destruction within the community. Design elements derived from West African bocio sculptures are used to compose images of power objects, as a means of empowerment and change. Advertisements for the tobacco company that are aimed at the urban communities are ritually cut and sutured as a way of illustrating the will to overturn present power dynamics and create new ones. Ubiquitous, discarded cigarette boxes are incorporated as a way to invoke the presence of community members as consumers. My work also refers to neoclassical busts, previously used to link the Caucasoid ethnographic type to power. The use of imitation of black granite and marble busts operates as a signifier for identity. Assembled, these elements operate as power objects to aid in the shedding of what Kenyan writer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o called the “colonized mind.