The quirky charm of Maid in Africa lies in its distinctly modern and rural African narrative. More than anything the everyday images, such as shebeens, bottles of Marmite and cans of sardines, carefully reproduced on the bright, hand-painted fabrics are accompanied by amusing and humorous African sayings, a tongue-in-cheek twist added to the regularity of contemporary African life.
Andrew and Micha Weir started Maid in Africa in 2006 after their domestic worker, Priscilla, was diagnosed with HIV. They were forced to watch helplessly as her condition worsened even though Priscilla expressed a desire to continue being productive. Micha Weir showed Priscilla how to silk-screen paint and produce hand-painted fabrics. Tragically, Priscilla succumbed to AIDS in 2007 but her passing inspired the Weirs to spread a wonderful, celebratory message, including immortalising Priscilla’s smiling image as ‘Maidonna’ on a variety of surfaces and a range of beautiful, highly sought-after cushion covers.
For the contemporary, urbanised, Afripolitan (African cosmopolitan), there is no better selection of African ‘pop art’ products, and its ability to merrily hold up a mirror mocking society, in the sound tradition of Warhol’s ‘pop art’, than the items produced by Maid in Africa. The bright colours of the hand-painted fabrics make these genuine statement pieces instantly attractive, the motifs on the items are truly timeless like good art and yet, they confidently hold their own in any setting.
For an excellent variety of postcards, some called ‘Oshi-cardies’ complete with rural Oshiwambo folk wisdoms, humorous fridge magnets, hand-painted and printed placemats, aprons, dresses, cushion covers and upholstery fabrics, some inspired by Namibian artist, John Muafangejo, and a charming expression of affection for Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, it is absolutely necessary to visit Maid in Africa in the Namibia Craft Centre for the best in ‘Afro pop art’.
November 25, 2019