Mau Mau on the Move
Digging through some vinyl this week, I came across this 7″ cover with the little lion icon on the speaker identifying it as a Mau Mau production.
The tune by Micah Shemaiah is another part of the reggae revival vibe coming out of Jamaica right now – but that’s another story, although we’ll have more on this coming shortly. It’s one of several pieces Mau Mau has done for reggae artists. If you’ve got issue 10 of Irie Up, you’ll see several of Mau Mau’s pieces featured inside, including some of the work he painted on the streets in Kingston a couple of years ago.
It’s been an unusually busy week for “street” artists. Banksy, who has undeniably mastered the art of promotion, now exists in some meta-art zone where his New York “shows” are commentaries on the process of making and selling artwork, while simultaneously promoting the shows themselves. You may have seen the videos of the stuffed animals being driven around New York, or the Banksy art stall that people passed by, convinced that the paintings must be fakes. Several of these performances made the TV news.
The debate about street art ties people in knots. This week saw New York Mayor Bloomberg raging against street art while snootily proclaiming that no-one loves art more than himself, so it’s a debate worth having. According to Bloomberg, Banksy was ruining people’s property, while the people whose property had alleged been “ruined” were trying to figure out how to sell the art-laden wall of their house without destroying the building. Although Banksy has lifted himself through film, media and the press, Mau Mau has been our favourite here at Irie Up for a few years. We first wrote about Mau Mau when one of our readers tipped us off to Mau Mau’s reggae-flavoured art in Jamaica and Mau Mau later agreed to contribute some of his work to the Reggae Movement Exhibition – he is deeply tapped in to soundsystem culture, as you’ll see later.
While Mau Mau’s pictures of Jah Shaka or mobile sound systems on the streets of London are celebrations of urban and UK reggae culture, his randy cigarette-smoking foxes (he left one in Yaam and there’s another one behind a bush somewhere off Stralauerplatz) or rancid, corpulent Ronald McDonalds distil the essence of a corporate world gone mad. Mau Mau’s visual universe is populated by flying pigs, corgi-shagging foxes and corporate monkeys: the foxes wipe their backsides with toilet paper manufactured from News of the World; his Grim Reaper wears masks fashioned from a Shell logo; McDonalds often make an appearance in the pictures but they won’t be sponsoring Mau Mau anytime soon; and Monsanto’s apples wickedly intersect with Disney’s Snow White.
When the Financial Times started alerting its readers to Mala and dubstep last year, you kind of knew that the dubstep phenomenon had achieved total mainstream-ness, so it was with some shock that I noticed one of Mau Mau’s pictures illustrating an article about London Frieze Week in this weekend’s Financial Times, which noted that “amid the commodity trading, the smell of street spirit lingers” in the form of “bona fide street artist” Mau Mau. When the Financial Times is announcing that you’ve got street cred, that’s usually a kiss of death, but the irony of Mau Mau featuring in the Financial Times is gorgeous in itself. In fairness, the FT produces some great pieces about art, including a provocative piece last week from Grayson Perry, who delivers this year’s first Reith lecture called ‘Democracy has bad taste’, which you can hear bits of here or read here.
Mau Mau’s art has been sought-after for several years now but he keeps his prices relatively low to make his art accessible. Still, it looks like the money is going to a good cause. Mau Mau’s work sells out fast but it’s occasionally available through Souled Out Studios.
The FT piece is here.