Multi-disciplinary Artist Mahaneela caught our eye years ago after filming a short film called ‘Kindred’ as part of Tate Modern’s ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the age of Black Power’ exhibition. Since then, Mahaneela has continued to catapult upwards as a groundbreaking artist, working with brands such as Nike and Kurt Geiger (to name a few) and directing videos for artists such as Nines, Trey Songz, Sampha and Disclosure. For our Photography issue, she spoke with us about her ongoing ‘Wear Yellow Project'.
For me, the work selected is about space in the sense of the physical space I created this imagery. The initially shots featured in the project was done in Johannesburg, South Africa, a space that has become a new spiritual home for me and my art.
I was definitely apprehensive about occupying space, both physical and metaphysical. Despite my multiple trips, South Africa was a new country to me, and to engage in the kind of collaborations I was hoping for with a community of artists who don’t know me was a daunting task. I hoped that despite our cultural differences I would be able to bridge the gap and build a genuine connection, and I feel that I did.
I used the colour yellow for several reasons; ochre is the oldest known natural pigment in the world, which I guess is what first drew my attention. I’ve always been drawn to the colour and when travelling to South Africa and India, I realised how prominent the colour was in society in comparison to England, where everything is grey. I started researching colour theory and the psychological effects of the colour, and quickly realised that bringing more yellow into my life was making me happier. Since then, my interest has expanded to the anthropological and spiritual features to the colour. I basically find out something new about yellow every day, so it’s fascinating to me. I also think it looks so magical on black and brown people. Being of both West African and South Asian descent, yellow plays a key part in both sides of my culture and when I see it used, It reminds me of how rich the culture was prior to colonisation. Yellow for me is a reminder of the wealth of where I’m from, the richness, the vibrancy, the history.
Words by Mahaneela Choudhury Reid
Edited by Aisha Ayoade