Kara Mshinda by Wit López

“My practice is cathartic, therapeutic, and healing for me,” says artist Kara Mshinda of the process surrounding her eye-catching works. “I am healed by my art because it allows me to express my unspoken angst. With regard to the healing of others, I hope my art helps loosen the societal grip on what constitutes ideal art or images. I want my artwork to heal others by opening a new pathway of consideration. I want my work to help others to stop and look.” 

If you haven’t seen the beautiful, deeply thoughtful work of Kara Mshinda, you’re missing out. My first experience with Kara’s work was seeing a drawing on her Instagram account in 2017. I was swept into the piece by the swirling white oil pastel lines with accents in pale yellow acrylic paint against the black paper background. In the very center of the drawing is a symbol that I recognized as an homage to neo-expressionist painter and graffiti writer Jean-Michel Basquiat: a small, delicate, three-pointed crown. The piece is aptly titled Meditation II, as it pulls the viewer into the soothing stillness of its visual contemplative labyrinth. 

Mshinda’s latest works, The Paper Bag Series, are a captivating collection of collages made on found paper bags. The series takes its name after the “Brown Paper Bag Test,” which was a practice in colorism used in the U.S. South to privilege Black people who were not darker than a paper bag over darker-skinned Black people. According to Mshinda, the collages in her Paper Bag Series are “meditations on consumerism and the social construct of race.” The materials she uses include wrapping paper, circulars, and “clippings from the Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest continuously published African American newspaper in the United States,” as stated in her description of the series.

I appreciate the mindfulness and healing that is ever-present in Mshinda’s work and the way she employs her love of East Coast graffiti in her pieces as well. I look forward to seeing how she continues to shape her Paper Bag Series and other mixed media work. 

If you’d like to learn more about Kara Mshinda’s work, you can “like” her eponymous Facebook artist page, follow her on Instagram @karamshinda, or visit her website www.karamshinda.com.

To see her work in-person, check out the upcoming group show at HerSpaceArts which opens on December 15th.

Zoe Rayn Evans