Born and raised in Angola, Nzuji De Magalhaes had the opportunity to learn and study two essential perspectives of her diverse cultural background. She meticulously combines Angolan and American art forms to convey issues of stereotypes, myths, ethnicity, and politics.
In Angola, story-telling was instrumental for spending quality time with family and conveying important lessons along to youth regarding experiences in their daily lives. Although De Magalhaes was taught basic painting and design techniques at school, she acquired her craft skills from her grandfather and uncles. She began to add materials to her artwork as a way to communicate her Angolan culture. Her education continued on American soil. When she arrived in California twenty years ago, De Magalhaes was fascinated with its diverse culture. She learned the history and events that contributed to its development, especially those referring to her own African American heritage. However, on several occasions, many of her associates have conveyed certain misconceptions and stereotypes about both Africa and African Americans.
For example, in her Souvenirs series De Magalhaes used sand, beads, yarn, and glitter to capture the traditional Angolan art form while emphasizing the harsh life in her country during an endless civil war between two political parties. These works reflect on tourism and how financial gain from foreign escapists contribute to a country’s domestic turmoil. By selling misguided images of their own ethnic background to tourists, Angolan vendors help perpetuate misconceptions in an effort to survive.