Maliyamungu Muhande is a Congolese artist and filmmaker, educator, and curator based in New York.
Her documentary short, ‘Nine Days a Week’ about NYC street photographer Louis Mendes, screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, 2020 Doc NYC festival, and was selected by the 2020 National Board of Review. She is currently developing it into a feature length film. In 2020, Muhande led a six-week summer program in partnership with the ENGN Civic Creative Center and Sullivan County Center for Workforce with underserved teenagers in Monticello, New York, teaching them how to create their own documentaries. She was recently the curatorial advisor for curator Amy Rosenblum Martín’s (she/ella) Adjani Okpu-Egbe exhibition “on Delegitimization and Solidarity: Sisiku AyukTabe, the Martin Luther King Jr. of Ambazonia, the Nera 10, and the Myth of Violent Africa” (2021-2022) at ISCP, which Hyperallergic named one of NYC's Top 10 Exhibitions of 2021.
This quadrilingual (Swahili, Lingala, French, English) artist is currently a fellow and artist-in-residence at Adobe x Sundance Ignite (2021-2022), International Studio and Curatorial Program (2022) and Creative Culture at Jacob Burns (2022). Herfilmmaking and artistic practice actively refuses and unlearns colonial norms by all means necessary. Her work is rooted in inquisitiveness around identity, Blackness, and her diasporic history.
Informed by Socratic questioning within her documentary work, Muhande’s art practice transforms as her themes of longing, identity, and diaspora expand formally. As a curator, she interdisciplinary methodologies from theater to performance art to social practice art to textiles. As an artist, Muhande has participated in exhibitions –”Black Beyond” (Parsons Cloud Salon), “Art Island” (curated by Alexander Zev). She finds inspiration from her newfound institutional support, and pays it forward by collaborating with fellow artists and presentings their work as well.
As an artist, I am passionate about documenting stories of communities of African descent, with a critical focus on the way Black people have so often been misrepresented by the media. By pulling from history and current events, I seek to help build an archive for future generations—one that has the potential to reclaim identity and celebrate the underrepresented.
I see my own life as a testament to the power of art to change lives. When I was a child, growing up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a life in the arts wasn’t simply unattainable for me—it was unimaginable. My dream was to be a doctor, both because it made my family happy and because it felt like the highest aspiration I could reach for. My education system and cultural environment simply didn’t instill the possibility or the option of being an artist.
At age 12, I moved from the Democratic Republic of Congo to South Africa, a transition that took sacrifice and hard work from my parents in the hopes of giving my three siblings and I access to a better education. But the political climate and historical context of South Africa quickly rejected and isolated us. I learned English in six months, but most of that process included xenophobic encounters at the cashier because we couldn’t speak Zulu. This was the first time I’d experienced the richness of Blackness being dismissed and demeaned. I felt the scars of colonization; it didn’t matter that I could speak Swahili and Lingala—the deeply rooted inferiority complex that Black South Africans had absorbed deemed me not good enough/“other” in the eyes of my own. This left me with no place to belong. I was being taught with racist expectations, enduring racist behaviors from teachers and my predominantly white classmates. I was accepted by neither white nor Black South Africans. My parents didn’t understand the hurt I was feeling, leaving me misunderstood and lost even at home.