Mary Sibande

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.

Elle Decoration ZA (Cited at M. Dash)

The body, for Sibande, and particularly the skin, and clothing is the site where history is contested and where fantasies play out. Centrally, she looks at the generational disempowerment of black women and in this sense her work is informed by postcolonial theory, through her art making. In her work, domestic setting acts as a stage where historical psycho-dramas play out.

Sibande’s work also highlights how priviledged ideals of beauty and femininity aspired to by black women discipline their body through rituals of imitation and reproduction. She inverts the social power indexed by Victorian costumes by reconfiguring it as a domestic worker’s “uniform” complexifying the colonial relationship between “slave” and “master” in a post-apartheid context. The fabric used to produce uniforms for domestic workers is an instantly recognizable sight in domestic spaces in South Africa and by applying it to Victorian dress she attempts to make a comment about history of servitude as it relates to the present in terms of domestic relationships.

Gallery MOMO

3 Comments

Filed under (AD)DRESSING GENDER & SEXUALITY, FASHIONING RACE, LABOR AND THE CREATIVE ECONOMY, ON BEAUTY

3 responses to “Mary Sibande

  1. These pieces are amazing both visually and in terms of the work that went into actually creating them. As soon as I saw the first image I thought of Kara Walker, so her references clearly come through. I love the description of how fantasy is at play and the transformation of the mundane maid’s uniform into clothing that symbolizes racial and economic privilege. Powerful stuff for sure.

  2. i adore these, i saw them pop up on tumblr awhile ago (i think thanks to bowfolk?) and was completely enchanted by them visually and their message. so powerful.

  3. Pingback: The banality of beauty « fictions

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