Self-taught Malawian photographer grapples with ancestry in new photo series

“Who Will Bury You?” depicts a young, faceless woman ready to die.

From Rajni Perera’s explorative dreamworlds to the two South African filmmakers who unpacked an oppressive history, identity has been a cornerstone in the work of many of the artists we’ve covered at Design Indaba.

Like them, Malawian-born, Boston-based visual artist kyle malanda (she prefers that her name be written in lower case) uses her craft to explore her struggles with identity through the unique lens of burial rights.

Her father was born to the Lomwe people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Malawi while her mother is Ngonde. Malanda, as a result, considers herself a third culture kid.

“I produce work that tries to make sense of my struggles with identity, tribalism, mental illness, and generational trauma in an increasingly globalised world,” explains the self-taught photographer.

After graduating with an undergraduate degree in International Relations, she soon realised she wanted to explore her understanding of politics through art instead. She is currently a full-time student again and studying my BFA in Fashion Design at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Her new photo series, Who Will Bury You? explores the meaning of belonging through inevitable death and funeral rites.

“Shot with my younger sister on our father’s ancestral land in Mulanje and interpreting select themes of Ngonde (Nyakyusa) burial rituals from our mother’s ethnic background, Who Will Bury You? is an exploration of life at death and the inevitable question of who will claim this body when I cease to exist in it,” she says.

Depicting a young, faceless woman ready to die, Who Will Bury You? imagines the ritual of life and death and asks the viewer to interpret its meaning.

Pictures by kyle malanda