mary-sibande

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Out of South Africa comes Mary Sibande recognized for her project called,  Long Live the Dead Queen. The exhibition revolves around a character named Sophie Ntombikayise, a maid inspired from her personal family history of four generations involved in domestic work. 

“Sophie’s eyes are always closed as she dreams and desires things that a maid and her family never had. Sibande created the figure in order to pay tribute to her mother, grandmother and her great-grandmother in a four figure sculpture series.  In this, Sibande too becomes the maid, crafting the history of the women in her family.”

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“They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To” ~ Mary Sibande

Mary Sibande is a South African artist based in Johannesburg. Her recent series ‘Long live the dead queen’ was featured within the city on the side of buildings and other structures as large, photographic murals. The series, like Sibande’s practice as an artist, ‘attempts to critique stereotypical depictions of women, particularly black women in our society.’

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Mary Sibande  born 1982, lives and works in Johannesburg. She obtained a B-Tech degree in Fine Arts at the University of Johannesburg in 2007. 

In Sibande’s practice as an artist, she employs the human form as a vehicle through painting and sculpture, to explore the construction of identity in a postcolonial South African context, but also attempts to critique stereotypical depictions of women, 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  the black woman and in this sense her work is informed by postcolonial theory, through her art making. In her work, the domestic setting acts as a stage where historical psycho-dramas play out. 

Sibande’s work also highlights how privileged 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. via

 Mary Sibande is represented by Gallery Momo

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New Africa: the South African artist addressing her family’s past

Mary Sibande’s ancestors could only be maids. Now she uses their uniforms in her art

In the new South Africa, black children could go to white schools, which Sibande promptly did. “I guess that’s where my aspirations came from. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to blend in. But I couldn’t because of my skin colour.”

In her fourth year at university – she went to study fashion but ended up in fine art – her grandmother started talking to her about being a maid. “I knew this, but it didn’t stick. You think it’s normal. All the women in my family were maids. And here I am, born in 1982, and my destiny is totally different and I have this freedom to be what I want to be. But my grandmother, she spoke about all the things she wished she could have been.”

It was this that gave Sibande the idea for “Sophie”, an idealised maid dressed in Victorian crinolines. She had a mannequin cast from her own body and shot it in different poses. “With her eyes closed. That, for me, illustrated the idea of aspiring and wishing.”

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Mary Sibande is one of South Africa’s most talented young artists. For several years, her work has nearly exclusively revolved around Sophie, a servant character created from her personal genealogy (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were maids). Sophie’s dark silky skin and her majestic eye-catching blue Victorian dresses turn her into a queen whose eyes close on reality (but only a little, as only artists can do) to open on a world of  celebrational fantasy exploring South Africa’s identity. - meetheartist

1.  Her Majesty, Queen Sophie

2 - 6. Lovers in tango **

7. Wish you were here

8. I’m a Lady

9. All is not lost 

10. Living Memory

11. I put a spell on me

 The faces of the mannequins are a cast of Sibande’s own face and the figures are clothed in an elaborate hybrid of a ‘maids’ uniform and Victorian dresses. According to the artist’s statement, 'the body… and particularly the skin, and clothing is the site where history is contested and fantasies are played out’. The histories being played out here are the 'stereotypical depictions of women, particularly black women in our society’. One cannot deny that the figure of `the maid’ is one of South Africa’s most common stereotypes. 

Stereotypes are contradictory in the sense that on the one hand they stand in for a group in the most generalised and recognisable way, but on the other hand are also invisible through the process of generalisation. The `servant’ traditionally is conceived of as an invisible, sightless, deaf and mute figure to those she serves. She has no individuality, and one of the ways this is realised is through the uniform. The uniform literally covers the body but at the same time covers the clothing of the `maid’ that might identify her as an individual who has made particular sartorial decisions.

Sibande’s 'maids’ uniforms, however, have been extended and remodelled into lavish and voluptuous dresses. Sibande has used masses of tulle to create the over-feminised costume of the Victorian `lady’ as in I’m a Lady, (2009).  The extravagance of the dresses disables the figures from easy movement, let alone to be able to perform the work of a `maid’. This inability to perform tasks, ironically, becomes a marker of status: a figure dressed as such would have to be waited on, her inaction indicating her position in the hierarchy. -artthrob

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South African artist  Mary Sibande creates life size sculptures, primarily of black women arrayed in large ornate dresses.  The dresses seem to be a perfect blend of Victorian upper class and a maid’s uniform. Sibande’s grand installations efficiently comment on gender, class, colonialism, and beauty.  To further underscore these issues, Sibande arranged for huge photographic murals of the installations to be displayed throughout Johannesburg.

Mary Sibande is a South African artist based in Johannesburg. Her recent series ‘long live the dead queen’ was featured within the city on the side of buildings and other structures as large, photographic murals. the series, like Sibande’s practice as an artist, ‘attempts to critique stereotypical depictions of women, particularly black women in our society’. In the series black woman are depicted wearing extravagant Victorian dresses in vivid hues.

via designboom (2010)

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One of the most extraordinary up-and-coming photography festivals is currently taking place in the second fastest growing city in Africa, Lagos.

Already home to a thriving film industry, founder Azu Nwagbogu is organizing exhibitions, workshops, and lectures to show off little-known local talent and global artists alike.

Take a Look at the Work of Africa’s Most Talented Photographers

via Cool Hunting / Photos by Jan Hoek and Mary Sibande