Mary E. Mudiku


Artist2Artist Fellowship


Mary E. Mudiku (nee’ Mary Esther Jones, b. Anguilla, MI) is a visual and performing artist and poet. Mary attended the Memphis Academy of Fine Art, where she was one of the school’s first African-American students. She then entered the Fine Art program at the University of Memphis, where she was the first Black student to graduate, earning her BFA in 1968.

Mary was a key figure in the Black Art Movement of the 1960s. As an MFA student at Howard University, she immersed herself in the burgeoning Black Nationalism movement of Washington DC. Embracing her African heritage, she developed innovative techniques to create work that spoke to the issues of the day—Black Pride, Black Feminism, Self Love, Community Development, Economic Growth, Art Therapy, Prison Ministries, etc. Her work became a critical resource for a community yearning to celebrate its African heritage. She developed a remarkable following of community groups, prison ministries, and children’s art programs; she designed and produced book covers, posters, notecards, fine art prints, and murals; and she created a line of “wearable art,” including dress-length t-shirts, purses, book bags, and shoes.

Among her many accomplishments, Mary worked as a Certified Art Therapist and a Certified Addiction Counselor. At Washington’s Central Treatment Facility, she created an art therapy program for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, which reduced recidivism among its participants. Over a period of ten years, Mary innovated new curricula for female inmates and Hispanic prisoners. During this time, she was also a member of “The Message Makers,” a Washington, DC–based poetry group that performed throughout the east coast.

While Mary is most known for her innovative techniques in pen and ink pointillism, her body of work—produced over sixty years—shows a strong command of any medium she has touched. She is most proud of the role she has played in opening up opportunities for Black and Brown artists for self-expression while establishing her and their rightful place in the canon of Modern American Art. She states, “My work reflects genetic memory of African heritage. These spiritual connections guide my creativity. As such, it is an African response to a Euro-Western experience, resulting in imagery that ranges from representational to abstract. It is imagery that is, by definition, therefore, African.”

Mary believes that her life, talents, and creativity have been tools used by God to bring more awareness and encourage more love among Africans throughout the Diaspora and, more broadly, among the entire human family. She hopes that anyone who experiences her works will find something meaningful enough to stimulate the beauty in themselves and inspire them to invest in the rich creative heritage, culture, and history of the legions of phenomenal Black artists of today.

Featured Image: Ancestral Reminders, 1991. Acrylic and spray paint on dress length shirt, 21 x 43." From the artist's personal collection.

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Awake My Sons and Daughters, 1985. Lamp Black paint wash and pencil on watercolor board, 22 x 22." From the artist's personal collection.

The History of Black Nationalism in the Americas, 1991. Original artwork Book cover commissioned by Pyramid Book Store, Washington DC. Acrylic on illustration board, 20X30." Courtesy of the artist.

Black Kings… Black Suns Still Shine… Still Shine, 1985. Commissioned by Morgan State University Urban Gerontology Department. Stippling: Radiograph Technical Pen on Illustration Board, 20 x 25."
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