Ato Malinda


 “As a performer, it is important for me to

communicate what is, in fact, deemed the

ineffable: to talk to an audience about

what binds us through this human

experience, and to talk in between the space

of the definitive to the realm of the

organically virtual.”


Ato Malinda (1981) was born in Kenya, as the daughter of a Kenyan mother and an Ugandan father. She grew up in Holland, but returned to Kenya as a teenager. After high school she moved to the USA where she studied Art History and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas. She subsequently moved back to Kenya where she works in multiple art disciplines: video art, performance art, installation, drawing, and painting. In addition, she works

as a free-lance curator.


Ato is one of a few performance artists in East Africa and is fighting hard for this relatively unknown art discipline to become more accepted. Many of Ato's performances are transformed into video art, with new layers and perspectives added to the original performance.


A recurrent theme in many of Ato’s art works is identity: female identity, black identity, African identity, cultural identity. She has, among other things, examined “africanity”, female stereotyping, women’s role and social status in Kenya, but also the influence of architecture on the formation of identity.


Ato Malinda has exhibited in numerous countries in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean and had residencies in Cameroun, Denmark, and Curaçao.


Prison Sex II is the culmination of a series of works that

began with a community mural, then evolved into a public

performance and finally became a video triptych. The mural was of a ‘leso,’ a piece of cloth that came from the handkerchiefs worn by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. Local women on the Kenyan coast traded these

and sewed them into cloths, which evolved to become the lesos that are worn today. The jina of the leso states“Jua historia yako, ushikilie utamaduni wako”, which means:

know your history, own your culture. The public

performance of Prison Sex II was inside the Fort Jesus museum and devoted to the memory of a woman who was imprisoned there during colonial rule as means to gain autonomy from her husband.

On Fait Ensemble is about Mami Wata, an African water

spirit, whose image arrived on the African continent at the

beginning of the 20th Century on a chromolithograph

brought from Europe. The market performance invokes a

historical re-enactment in which an image of the

chromolithograph is given to the marketeers by Papai Wata,

the European concomitant to Mami Wata. This video was

filmed in Douala,Cameroon, where worshippers of Mami

Wata are high amongst the populace. She is believed to

bring solace and good fortune to her worshippers.

“On fait ensemble” is the artist’s interpretation of the

Cameroonian colloquialism,“on est ensemble”.