“The Purple shall govern”

  • Location: South African National Gallery
  • From: November 28, 2013     To: January 15, 2014
“The Purple shall govern”

An exhibition by Mary Sibande, winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist (Visual Art) of the Year 2013

Sibande is celebrated for her practice in which she employs the human form as a vehicle - through painting and sculpture - to explore the construction of identity in a postcolonial South African context. She attempts to critique stereotypical depictions of (particularly black) women in our society.  Centrally, she looks at the generational disempowerment of black women.  In this sense her work is informed by postcolonial theory, with the domestic setting acting as a stage where historical psycho-dramas play out.

Sibande's work also highlights how ideals of beauty and femininity inspired black women to 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” - adding complex notions to 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. By applying it to Victorian dress, Sibande attempts to make a comment about the history of servitude as it relates to the present.

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