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Past Project Activist Print: Bekezela Mguni: Ancestral Lines and Pittsburgh Loves Dogs

July 31–October 29, 2017

Activist artist Bekezela Mguni in front of her installation Ancestral Lines at The Andy Warhol Museum. Photo by Emmai Alaquiva.

Activist artist Bekezela Mguni in front of her installation Ancestral Lines at The Andy Warhol Museum. Photo by Emmai Alaquiva.

Ancestral Lines reclaims spiritual iconography and uses collage techniques to create powerful expressions of gratitude, history, and praise. Pittsburgh Loves Dogs evokes a traumatic and unresolved history.

Ancestral Lines explores and honors the experiences of women of African descent with an array of vibrant text and images spanning the last century. The piece includes a quote by Anna Julia Cooper, a scholar, educator, and Black Liberation activist. Cooper was one of the first Black women to earn a doctoral degree in the United States, and embraced education in service to her people’s freedom. The artist embeds her own poetry across the surface of a woman’s face, reflecting on generations within her family and referencing the visual language of zines. The work reclaims spiritual iconography and uses collage techniques to create powerful expressions of gratitude, history, and praise.

In Pittsburgh Loves Dogs, images and text from a range of historical and contemporary sources are hand-torn and combined in a multi-layered collage, highlighting the use of dogs in centuries of violent oppression of Black people in the United States. Mguni pulls from a poster advertising canines trained to hunt fugitive slaves, photographs of police dogs attacking protesters during civil rights actions in the 1960s, and news images of present-day local law enforcement, evoking a traumatic and unresolved history. In response to the tragic death of Bruce Kelley Jr., the artist asks, “Is Black human life worth as much as a dog’s in the ‘Most Livable City in America?’ When will police officers be held accountable for the extra-judicial killing of Black people?”

Bekezela Mguni is a librarian, activist, artist, and abundant bodied femme. She collaborates with various artists, educators, healers, and activists seeking to create new worlds, believing that the collective sharing of knowledge, beauty, and inspiration is a part of life’s purpose, and she brings that intentional spirit to her work. She holds a master’s degree in library and information science and participated in the first Librarians and Archivists with Palestine delegation in June 2013. She was a 2015 Penn Ave Creative fellow with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and examines the relationship between literacy and liberation by engaging libraries as sites of possibility. She works to create spaces that center and honor the cultural contributions and storytelling of black women through the Black Unicorn Project, a black, queer, feminist library and archive.

Activist Print: Bekezela Mguni: Pittsburgh Loves Dogs

About Activist Print

Activist Print is a collaboration between The Warhol, BOOM Concepts (a creative hub for artists to incubate ideas), and the North Side printmaking studio Artists Image Resource (AIR). Activist Print is inspired by the history of artists using silkscreen and print-based media to raise awareness of contemporary issues and inspire change.