Sibande’s The Purple shall govern at ISANG

  • Posted: Nov 21, 2013

Iziko South African National Gallery

28 November 2013 -15 January 2014

Johannesburg based artist, the 30 year old Mary Sibande, is the recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art 2013.  An exhibition of her work entitled: ‘The Purple shall govern’ will open at the Iziko South African National Gallery on 28 November 2013. For Sibande, the Standard Bank Young Artist Award means personal growth - a validation of years of hard work - and is an expression of the appreciation of her development as an artist.

“It is a compliment and honour to be rewarded in this way, and to be recognised for my dedication and focus on my art,” says Sibande. “I think this kind of validation is needed and is very encouraging for young up-coming artists - in particular female artists - to be recognised nationally in South Africa for their artistic talents and contributions to South African art.” 

“Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko) celebrates South Africa’s diverse artistic, cultural and natural heritage,” says Rooksana Omar, CEO of Iziko. “Hosting the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year, Visual Art, exhibition foregrounds the vital role of artistic production, creativity and innovation. We are proud to be part of the conversation - a dialogue between artists, objects and the public -  in creating a  platform to showcase South Africa’s stories – previously untold and some difficult to share,” she continues. .

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. 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.  In this sense her work is informed by postcolonial theory, with the domestic setting acting as a stage where historical psycho-dramas play out. “I have joined a small group of women artists who have shaped and are still shaping perceptions about women’s narratives,” said Sibande, who believes her influence primarily lies within the South African artistic community.

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.

“Growing up, my grandmother used to say I was very talented and creative. I guess that sparked confidence in me,” Sibande commented on why she decided to pursue a creative career. Her interest in fashion has also been apparent from a young age, and is still evident in her art. Sibande is also fascinated by visually stimulating material like documentaries on history and sociology.

Her solo exhibitions include Long live the dead Queen at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown (2010), Inner city Johannesburg (2010), the Joburg City World Premier Annual Exhibition (2010) and Gallery MOMO, JHB (2009), as well as My Madam’s Things at Gordart Gallery, Melville, JHB (2006).



Notes to editor:

About Iziko Museums of South Africa

Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko) operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and three collection‑specific libraries in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections that reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation that brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium). Visit our webpage at, join our online community on Facebook ( or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions.


  • National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
  • Emancipation Day: 1 December
     ·Day of Reconciliation: 16 December
  • Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium, free only on International Museum Day and Heritage Day.

About The Standard Bank Young Artist Awards

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to acknowledge emerging, relatively young South African artists who have displayed an outstanding talent in their artistic endeavours. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 29-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize.



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