Portraits, self-portraits, and inspirations from cartography, play an important role in Mashilo’s works: they are immediately recognisable as Africa, harnessing aesthetic traditions from African beadwork, sculpture, line work and body modification practiced by the ethnic groups and cultures of its diaspora.
Mashilo’s works offer a perspective into self-representation, desire, geography and spirituality. For Mashilo, it is important to visualize black identities with agency, compassion and humanity, and create an accurate archive of who we are and how we choose to identify as the black youth of today. Being mainly a figurative artist, Mashilo aims to capture intimate settings and use these as a gateway to ponder the complexities of this young black existence. The abstract environment built around her figures and sometimes as the figure gives suggestions to a place, mood, and emotion only accessible beyond this realm.
The realism in her work is reserved for the faces; her figures are instantly recognisable, yet their geographical locations are unknown, and their bodies are not confined and constricted by gender. Recognisable hints of traditional African cultures (the beads, draped cloth, piercings, and thousands of tiny pen markings that remind us of scarification) are symbols, rather than realistic touches of detail, which transport these identities to a place beyond time, lending them an immortal quality. Circles are used in all aspects of Mashilo’s work, either in endless jittered repetitions to produce textures, or as large geometries that depict either adornment or the galaxy. The circles are there to remind us, lest we forget, that the power Mashilo documents is celestial.