Monday, January 3, 2011

Mary Sibande

Happy New Year everyone! Let's get 2011 off to a great start with an artist I've been admiring for a while, and am so happy to finally blog about on South of the Sahara.

Mary Sibande is an artist born and raised in Johannesburg, and her creation is Sophie, who has appeared in a series called Long Live the Dead Queen. To quote from The Fox is Black (I couldn't say it better myself),

"Inspired by the explorations of race, gender and sexuality in the work of American artists Kara Walker and Cindy Sherman, and London-based Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, Mary cast her own body in fibreglass and silicone to create Sophie. She then painted her a ‘flat black,’ so that she stands out like a dark and static shadow … Sophie’s eyes are always closed as if in a ‘constant ecstasy of fantasy’ and it’s in her mind that her dress becomes a thing of voluminous Victorian splendour. ‘If she opened her eyes, it would be back to work – cleaning this, dusting that. Her dress would become an ordinary maid’s uniform,’ said Mary."

Mary's work critiques the stereotypical depictions of women, particularly black women, in South African society. In mixing the "uniform" that a typical domestic worker in South Africa wears, with the pomp and flourish of Victorian garb, Sophie brings up all sorts of questions about "slave" and "master", disempowerment and really how these things are all still hovering around a long, long time after they should have been gone.

The series were posted up as billboards around South Africa during the Soccer World Cup last year, and I wish I had seen them in person.

There was recently an open top bus tour (seen here and here) of Long Live the Dead Queen, and Mary Sibande herself travelled with the attendees to discuss the work. Jealous does not begin to describe my feelings about that!

I got my images and info from a few different sources, you can read more by clicking on the names:
Gallery MOMO
The Fox is Black
RiekieKiekie on flickr
Travels with the Joburg Tour Guide
Mark Straw (this is his, the last and most amazing pic)


Hayley said...

Okay, i feel very embarrassed now. I walk past these massive billboards every single day...I knew it was an art exhibition, but had no idea what exactly it was about!

Thanks so much for this!

Anabel Fournier said...

Amazing work. Thank you for sharing and happy new year!