Artist Statement

Joy Yamusangie's Fictional Jazz Club Traverses Themes of Gender, Race, and Identity

Inspired by the life of Billy Tipton, the talented American jazz artist who lived secretly as a trans man until it was revealed post mortem, a new exhibition by Congolese-British artist Joy Yamusangie explores the ecstasy of finding comfort with one’s authentic self. Titled "Feel Good," the show features a series of paper and fabric paintings that collectively portray the convivial atmosphere of a jazz club—a metaphor for gender euphoria informed by Yamusangie’s personal experience with trans identity.

Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.

Bio: Joy Yamusangie, London (@joyyamusangie

Title of work: Trumpet!

Where to see it: NOW Gallery, London (March 24 – June 5)

Three words to describe it: Jazz, gender, and performance.

What was on your mind at the time: I was imagining a jazz club and the trumpeter playing so loud that they commanded the attention of the whole room. 

An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: The outfit was inspired by the Sapeuse [a name for stylish dressers in the Congo]. I also wanted it to feel like a flag through its composition and limited color palette.

How it reflects your practice as a whole:  My work is always personal, it’s a reflection of who I am. Many of the characters are depictions of myself and often themes of race and gender particularly trans masculine identity are recurring. With this piece it is just that, imagining myself as part of the band, suited and making a noise louder than my voice ever could.

One song that captures its essence: We’ve Landed by Tony Allen and Masekela.

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