Luxury fashion house, Gucci, collaborates with Cinthia Sifa Mulanga for its latest campaign

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga photographed by Earl Garth Abrahams

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga’s paintings of female subjects trapped in interior spaces chimed with the times. Now she will be overturning ideals of beauty through an artwork commissioned by Gucci, to celebrate the fashion house’s iconic Diana tote bag.

Few artists made a name for themselves during Covid-19 and the lockdowns that forced everyone into isolation. Without live exhibitions, fairs and gatherings, it seemed as if there weren’t opportunities for unknown artists to elicit attention or generate a wave of interest.

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga bucked this trend, quickly gaining attention on Latitudes Online with a series of paintings that immediately suggested the artist possessed that elusive signature that artists and collectors seek out. Two years on, there are still waiting lists for her works, the prices of them have increased substantially, she has shown her paintings at local and international art fairs, is in discussion with a first-tier African gallery to exhibit works and has been commissioned by Gucci to create an artwork that celebrates the Diana tote bag. This is not bad going for a twenty-five-year-old artist who only launched onto the scene during the pandemic.

“It has definitely been surprising. I was really taken aback,” says Mulanga, of the invitation to be featured in Gucci’s latest campaign. “I’m only now digesting what has happened and starting to understand the impact of my work and how different it is.”

Mulanga was tasked with featuring the iconic Gucci Diana tote bag, in a new piece, commissioned by the Italian fashion house. First introduced in 1991, the bag was popularised by and later named after Diana, Princess of Wales. The collaborative process, which saw many versions sent back and forth between Johannesburg and Milan, resulted in the below artwork, Moment. 

Moment, the artwork created as a collaboration between Cinthia Sifa Mulanga and Gucci to celebrate the iconic Gucci Diana tote bag

From the beginning, Mulanga’s paintings brought Teresa Firmino’s collage paintings or Sam Nthlengethwa’s interior scenes to mind – and indeed Mulanga confirms she was inspired by their work. However, in Mulanga’s interiors, which are peopled by black women and collaged images of representations of them, it was immediately clear she was driving a focused engagement with black female identity and ideals of beauty as depicted in popular culture and western art. You have this sense that her female subjects are in a waiting room, biding their time until they are granted entry into a painting or portrait. Representations of women surround them, testing their self-confidence.

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