Maty & François,welcome me into their cozy, cosmopolitan home in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.
Maty a.k.a Moo is a stem with long black hair who mostly dresses in black; a fascinating and elusive character. I am struck by her hearty laugh and very deep voice.
A spellbinding world surrounds me: Native American headdresses, a stockpile of jewelry and perfume, a Russian doll in a corner, a buffalo head…
I will later realize that I am in the home of a collector (some 50 bottles of perfume and 500 rings in the bathroom…)
A Basquiat-inspired painting grabs my attention next to the TV, on which a slideshow of photos reveals faces like Zoé Kravitz. There is talk of Kanye West and the fashion shows that he puts on.
So many iconic figures of a mixed heritage resulting from miscegenation !
Moo and I are drinking wine; Maty has decided on water and I notice her huge hands ornate with ethnic rings and her wrist tattooed with a dreamcatcher…
- First name: Maty
- Age: 34 yo
- Profession (s): Artist (paper collage)
- Mix: Senegal x Russia x France
- Lives in: Paris
When we broach the question of miscegenation, Maty talks to me about the mix of ethic groups, bloodlines, colors, genes. When she talks about these things, it seems as though she is creating a painting.
Right now I am thinking of the collages she has recently started making: a blend of materials, paper, photos, paste and varnish, from which surrealist characters emerge. Hybrid beings and shape-shifters which are sometimes disproportionate and make up a dreamlike and/or glam porn world. Maty says she is influenced by the Dada movement and more particularly the artist Hannah Höch…
Back to her roots
She describes her father as a countryman from Senegal and her mother as a beautiful blond French-Russian who is a little cold. In the 1980’s the two met in the Gare du Nord in Paris during their daily commute. This love story, of which she knows very few details, resulted in the birth of Maty, an only child in every sense of he term.
Maty has been to Senegal, a country she adores, many times, but she doesn’t know Russia, neither does her mother. She describes from Senegal a surrealistic and mystical atmosphere composed of smells, colors, sounds, like the singing of the muezzin calling for the prayer…
Africa has always been present in her life but paradoxically not thanks to her father. It was her French-Russian mother passionate about Senegal who adopted certain African traditions. She made Senegalese dishes, dressed in boubous, burned Senegalese incense and listened to the music of Youssou N’Dour… Maty doesn’t speak Russian or Wolof and only understands just a few words in Wolof.
“When I see myself, I see the face of an alien !”
An unclassified creature
“When I see myself I see the face of an Alien!” And this reminds me of the story of Alien.
“Alien”: a masculine word. A being from elsewhere, an extra-terrestrial. In the figurative sense, a stranger to a certain place; an animal or plant species which shows up in an environment that is not its own.
She describes herself: an oval face with a large forehead all while pointing at the Alien emoticon on her phone to put a picture to the words… “Can’t you see that I look it?” “Um… no…” She emphasizes her particular features: her African forehead contrasting with her small jaw like her mother, her two-tone lips; her long thin hands with small wrists… like her father. She sees the mix when she looks at herself! We discuss her color, she thinks she’s yellow. So we look for her pantone on the Internet, to confirm… by looking at the amazing project of the Brazilian photographer Angelica Dass: «Humanae» http://humanae.tumblr.com to find the reference that corresponds to her…
When I look at her, yes, I see an alien: a creature of supernatural beauty.
« Alien »
A plural identity
It all depends on her hair! Maty has a weave that she changes depending on her mood. In its natural state, her fine hais creates a wispy cloud around her face. If she goes for curly hair she passes for either Moroccan, Ethiopian or from the West Indies. When she wears her hair black and straight she is taken for an Indian. Maty understands that she stirs up confusion as to her origins and actually I think that she even cultivates this ambiguity. Her love of fashion that she got from her mother allows her to invent a new character every day. Her motley and dramatic style blends second-hand with vintage and contemporary pieces and ethnic jewelry. She works at creating extravagant outfits comprising all types of patterns, gypsy and rock dresses, crop tops, grunge boots and stilettos…
Maty, she breaks the rules by never being where she is expected!
To belong or not to belong
This Senegal-Russian has never been rejected because of her ethnic mix but she recalls a childhood memory of a time she was deeply hurt… One time when with her mother’s family, a black dog sat down next to her father, and they commented with uninhibited racism: “He sat down next to you because you’re black!” Maty would never forget this remark…
Neither black nor white, Maty feels like a human being above all else. She doesn’t belong to any community apart from the human race. Her richness comes from not being able to be put into a mould; she feels free vis-à-vis the two communities, belong to both but neither at the same time. It is this freedom that characterizes her: Maty refuses diktats and conventions, in particular those that imprison women in their bodies. She recently became a part of the “no make up” movement for example, favoring natural beauty and self-acceptance. Artistically, she identifies with the Dadaism values of mockery and play on propriety and conventions.