African Art, Emotions

Resilience with Imani Arunga

African photographer Imani Arunga is an artist based out of Kenya who specializes in portraiture. In this portrait, a young woman is entangled in rope. The rope reaches from the woman’s elaborate braids to her hands, where it is wrapped around her fingers and palms. While the rope falls loosely from her hair, and seems to weave lightly across her face, it is tightly bound around her neck. The woman’s expression, however, is not one of struggle, but rather one of gentle defiance. Entirely relaxed, her face is turned slightly upward so that it is illuminated while the tangle of rope around her neck is somewhat obscured. By choosing to focus on the woman’s expression, rather than the on the rope, Arunga has crafted an atmosphere of resilience.

The resilient mood of the portrait, however, exists amid an intense feeling of confinement that the subject emanates. Arunga’s piece is almost entirely the same tone. The dark background matches the rope as well as the woman’s skin and hair. This similarity in color serves to emphasize the feeling of imprisonment; the rope appears to simply be an extension of the woman and if the woman’s resilient expression was not illuminated, she would be almost entirely camouflaged against the background. Thus, it is the woman’s defiance, apparent in her expression, that distinguishes her from her confinement. The woman clearly refuses to fall victim to the rope that entangles her. Where she could easily blend in, she chooses to hold her head high instead.

It is often easy to fall victim to a negative situation. Arunga demonstrates the importance of resisting this trap. In the portrait, the woman does not allow her entanglement to define her; she is instead defined by her patience and endurance and thus the overwhelming mood of the portrait is one of strength. However impossible a situation may seem, resilience is the key to overcoming it.