Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring. – Marilyn Monroe
I have learned a lot about the politics and culture of Africa in general, and
Mali in particular, through their fabulous, spiritual music both recorded and in Hong Kong clubs. “Marilyn Monrovia” is an exploration of Western and African beauty standards. Depicted here is evidence of colonization and globalization, looming unfinished or eroded on the wall behind. The red might also refer to China’s African agenda. Besides being a girl’s best friend, the decorative, metallic diamonds along the border also refer to the mineral and other forms of exploitation of Africa.
About the title: Monrovia is the capital of Liberia. Liberia did everything they could to please the US, including copying our flag and naming their capital Monrovia after a well-known American shock absorber company. They were basically declaring colonial relations with the US in order to keep our European counterparts from declaring colonial relations with them. The US was not particularly interested in Liberia as a colony, but we weren’t about to turn down a free colony.
Liberian fashions (and African fashions in general) include brightly colored printed fabrics, like Marilyn is modeling here. As one South Sudanese model put it, “True beauty is born through our actions and aspirations and in the kindness we offer others. Beauty should not be culturally relevant. It should be universal.” She’s right. Beauty standards can co-exist. Why not? Who’s to lose?