Artist Feature: Alakina Mann


We spoke with London-based artist, Alakina Mann about the overlaps of artistic process and personal exploration, feelings of vulnerability, and connecting with the corporeal self, and the importance of representation. 

MacKenzie: Can you tell me about your process?

Alakina: I guess the drawing was an act of rejection of everything photoshopped passive and posed, and these are what came spilling out of me. I was terribly afraid of being judged by them as they are so personal and so naked but tentatively avoid genitalia. I wanted to explore and expose all the wonderful textures and folds that I saw in my own living active working body that I never saw in magazines or TV. I started doing yoga and pilates and exploring the sensations and feelings that came from with in my body, rather than what had been projected on to it. 

They speak about the frustration of objectification, the stress of trying to fit a full physical complicated human being into a gendered box - an object for others to consume and define. Also the joy and physicality of being in a body, also so the highs and lows that come with that, learning to love a body that hurts sometimes, from the inside and the out, mentally and physically.  

I work from photographs that I have taken of my own body (with the camera in my hand, so basically, loads of selfies) it was important to me that I had total control of my own image. I then collage them together through drawing in the way you see here. 

Women are so often the object of images and self-objectify, I’d grown up learning to be passive, amenable and attractive above all else. Then when I came to art school I became the person making the images, I had to find my own voice and try to get away from the ever-watching male gaze. (I mean, I’m sure thats most humans since forever feel)

MacKenzie: Who inspires you?

Alakina: In terms of artistic influences I was inspired by Jenny Seville and Wangetchi Mutu and later the Gorilla Girls, I felt like they would be cheering me on. I don’t think I would have had the bravery to continue art working if it wasn’t for the amazing feminists that came before me. I think there is truth to that saying “you can’t be what you can’t see” - I think you can but it's a LOT harder. I feel for women of colour who have fewer people that look like them that they can see and hear, or who aren’t as visible as they should be. 

I think I’ve also been quite heavily influenced by gothic renaissance art that we are taught about at school, those paintings are also very fraught and full of pain and joy, light and dark which I relate to for sure. I think you can see that in the high contrast shading, but also in that sense of bodily shame that is hungover from religion that our Euro-centric culture derives from. 

For more on Alakina Mann, click here! 

MacKenzie Peck