Thursday, 26 April 2012

painted ladies: meet Sophie

Mary Sibande, one of South Africa's emerging artists, is one of my favorites. {hmm, hardly 'emerging' - pretty much emerged I think, considering she's lauded internationally already}  

Her body of work has often revolved around Sophie, a character based loosely on the women in Mary's ancestry who were maids under the old apartheid regime, and based fully on Mary's body...
'Wish you were here'
The official description reads: 
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.

There's a strength in her that demands that you don't feel sorry for her. Instead, she is a celebratory figure, a phenomenal woman - reminding me of the Maya Angelou poem of the same name. 
'They don't make them like they used to'
'The Reign'
The work is powerful - and it's worth reading some of the interviews and links at the end of this post if you have an interest in the trickiness that is South Africa, or how art is conceptualised by artists. 
'Her Majesty Queen Sophie'
So, while Sophie isn't exactly a painted lady on a flat canvas, I chose her for our female figure in art this week. In 2010, buildings in Johannesburg were covered with large, photographic murals of Sophie as part of a work called 'Long live the dead queen'. The work sparked conversations about the role of women in South Africa, how our commonalities and human nature transcended the boxes we put ourselves, and each other, in:

...which sums up exactly how I felt when I first 'met' Sophie. 


images: Momogallery; buildings
interviews: Dressed to tell Sophie's tale ; Interview with Mary Sibande ; video interview
links of interest: Long live the dead queen


Patsy Day said...

'The Reign' is currently on exhibition at the National Gallery in Cape Town. I was mesmerised by it.

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