The Visceral Palpability Of The African Mask

Photography: Sarah Waiswa (@lafrohemien)

Velma Rosai-Makhandia, also known as Velma Rossa, and half of @2manysiblings, continues to use her body and work to express the depths of being a woman, a Black woman and an African Woman in no particular order from our observation.

She continues to create work around the female existence through her ongoing personal body of work. The Soul is a Silent Song sees the Kenyan visual artist and style curator explore abstract ways of depicting the meanings behind African masks. Through mirrors, glass, oblique camera angles, and the mask itself, the face of the wearer is obscured…leaving the viewer with a sense of the mysterious boundaries between human and object.

“I have always been fascinated by the visceral palpability of the African mask – its ritualistic energy, otherness, and the evocation of questions pertaining to fetish and sex, as well as qualities of anonymity, unease, power and mysticism,” she explains. “I am creating an interlocking narrative between the mask and the wearer, contrasting it with both the aesthetics and implications of the subject. It is about having a deep awareness of the sensory feeling, and spirit of the person wearing it that goes beyond the judgements of the physical realm.”

Other works have included a series of “self study images of being an African woman in the darker spectrum of Blackness”. She appears vulnerable, strong, alluring…..challenging the status quo on beauty coupled with strength in Black women and Black creatives. This is also very clear in the work she creates with friend and collaborator Sarah Waiswa (@lafrohemien). Velma poses with such calm grace whether in an elegantly beautiful orange dress, or in a men’s structured double breasted suit. Her serious posture and demeanor transcends, which is very intentional. It’s been an absolute pleasure to see the consistency and growth in her craft, delving into exploration of self.

“My work generates so much inspiration from my parents’ old photographs. The images document a time of defining a post colonial African identity. The silhouettes, tones, and composition play a big part in constructing the images we produce today. I tend to see images already formed in my head and it’s usually going through a process of expressing them through a chosen medium. Somewhere between African mysticism and my parents photographs are usually my immediate aesthetic references”.