Mary Sibande

Installation Views

b. 1982 Barberton, South Africa | Lives and works in Johannesburg

Mary Sibande, born in Barberton, South Africa, in 1982, lives and works in Johannesburg. She obtained her Diploma in Fine Arts at the Witwatersrand Technikon in 2004 and an Honours Degree from the University of Johannesburg in 2007. Sibande represented South Africa at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 and her project ‘Long Live the Dead Queen’ was found on murals all over the city of Johannesburg in 2010. Sibande is the recipient of several awards namely, the 2017 Smithsonian National Museum of African Arts Award, University of Johannesburg’s Alumni Dignitas Award in 2014 and the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Arts. Her work ‘The Purple Shall Govern’ toured South Afri-ca, ending in Johannesburg at the Standard Bank Gallery in 2014. She is the 2018-2019 Virginia C. Gildersleeve Professor at Barnard College at the Columbia University. In addition, Mary has been the recipient of several residencies and fellowships, including the Smithsonian Fellowship in Washington DC, the Ampersand Foundation Fellowship in New York and the University of Michigan Fellowship.


Sibande’s work not only engages as an interrogator of the current intersections of race, gender and labour in South Africa; but continues to actively rewrite her own family’s legacy of forced domestic work imposed by the then Apartheid State. Sibande employs the human form as a vehicle through photography and sculpture as a focused critique on the stereotypical depictions of women, particularly black women in South Africa. The body, for Sibande, and particularly how we clothe it, is the site where this history is contested and where Sibande’s own fantasies can play out.


This counter history takes the form of an alter-ego in Sibande’s early work, a persona by the name of ‘Sophie’ who is dressed in various uniforms that resemble the dresses worn by domestic workers. Altering these dress styles into Victorian motifs, Sibande completely reanimates Sophie’s history through how her body is adorned and the way she occupies these narratives that were stolen and denied from her. This is not just a political act, but one of transformation, as Sophie takes on new incarnations of herself unbound from the laboured history of servitude; as it relates to the present in terms of domestic relationships. Transitioning from blue to purple to red, Sibande introduces us not only to the many faces of herself and
‘Sophie’, but to the complex person hoods of African Women who continue to create worlds and narratives outside of the canon of Western Imperialism.


In her newest work, we witness ‘Sophie’ as the High Priestess becoming the space between two realms; between the past and future, between what has been and what could be – she is fleeting, a personification of mystery and spirit which is unknown to the rational world. In this work, Sibande offers insight into the past, present and future, interpreting biblical and philosophical texts on wisdom into personal visions and prophecy. The Priestess represents magic and possibility through ancient cultural practices associated with sorcery whose traditions continue into the present day. Most importantly, she attempts to exploit supernatural forces by summoning the spiritual and medicinal role inherent to magic and its associated rituals, gestures and languages.


Sibande has exhibited the world over in internationally leading museums. In 2010 she took part in the L’Exposition du Festival Mondi-al des Arts Nègres in Dakar, and her work was featured in the review From Pierneef to Gugulective: 1910-2010. Other galleries and events where her work has been shown include: the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town (2010); Museum of Contemporary Art, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2011); the Kiasma Museum for Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Museum Beelden aan Zee, Hague, Netherlands (2012); the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, Paris,-France (2013). Lyon Biennale 2013, Lyon, France; Musée Léon Driex, Saint-Denis, la Réunion Island (2014); Dishman Art Museum, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas, USA; The Whitworth Museum, Manchester, UK (2015); The British Museum, London ,UK (2016); Kalmar Konstmuseum, Sweden (2017); Cairns Art Gallery, Cairns, Australia(2019); The MET Breuer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, (2018).


Sibande’s works are included in prominent collections internationally, including Toledo Muse-um of Art, Toledo, USA; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC; Virginia Muse-um of Fine Art; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IIL USA; Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, France and Iziko South African Museums, South Africa.

Solo Exhibitions

2019 Art Basel Miami Beach, Kabinett Sector with Kavi Gupta

I came apart at the seams, I :54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Somerset House, London. UK. Leroy Neiman Gallery, New York City, USA.

2018 The Armory Show (Gallery MOMO), Piers 92 & 94, New York City, USA.

A Crescendo of Ecstasy, presented by The Mixed Reality Workshop (TMRW) in collaboration with Eden Labs, Keyes Art Mile; FNB Joburg

Art Fair (The Mixed Reality Workshop), Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg. South Africa.

2016 Right Now!, as part of Stellenbosch University’s Woordfees Fes1ival, Stellenbosch University’s Art Museum. Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The Armory Show (Gallery MOMO). 92 & 94 Piers. New York City, USA.

2014 The Purple Shall Govern, lziko South African Notional Gallery. Cape Town; Standard Bank Gallery. Johannesburg, South Africa.

2013 Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art. The Museum of Contemporary Art. Lyon. Fronce.

The Purple Shall Govern, Grahamstown National Ar Festival Grahamstown; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

The Purple Shall Govern, MAC/VAL Musee d’Art Contemporain di Val-de­Mame, Paris, France.

Mary Sibande and Sophie Ntombikayise Take Central Court, Central Court, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

The Purple Shall Govern, MAC/VAL The Musee d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, Vitry-sur-Seine, France; !ZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town; North-West University Gallery. North-West University, Potchefstroom; Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg; Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, The National Arts Festival, Grahamstown; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

2012 Mary Sibande and Sophie Ntombikayise Take Central Court, Central Court, Spencer Museum of Art. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

2010 Long Live the Dead Queen, Inner City Johannesburg, Exhibition of billboards on 1 9 buildings, Johannesburg, The Albany History Museum: Grahamstown, South Africa.

2009 Long live the Dead Queen, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa.

2006 My Madam’s Things, Gordart Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Group Exhibitions

2019 Open Borders, 14th Curitiba International Biennial. Curitiba, Brazil. N’GOLA Festival of Arts, Creation, Environment and Utopias, Sao Tome and Principe. Construction of the Possible, Havana Biennale, Havana, Cuba.

To Reclaim, Kavi Gupta, Chicago

That Was Then, SMAC, Cape Town

Made Visible, Contemporary South African Fashion and Identity, Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston, USA.

2018 The Red Hour, cura1ed by Simon Njami, Dok’ Art: African Contemporary Art Biennale, Dakar, Senegal.

In Their Own Form, Museum of Contemporary Photography(MoCP), Chicago, USA.

Shifting Boundaries: A Selection of Works showcasing South African Women Artists of the Past 100 Years, Welgemeend, Cape Town,
South Africa.

Not a Single Story, a collaboration between NIROX Foundation & The Wanas Foundation, Nirox Foundation Sculpture Park, Cradle of Human Kind, South Africa.

Continental Drift: Black / blak Art from South Africa and North Australia, Cairns Art Gallery, Cairns, Aus1ralia.

Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300-Now), The Met Breuer, New York City, USA. Cultural Threads, TextielMuseum, Tilburg, Netherlands.

Friends50, lziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.

Extra/Ordinary, curated by Ceren & lrkman Arkman, Plugin New Media Section, Contemporary Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey.

2017 South Africa: The Art of a Nation, The British Museum, London. UK.

All things being equal, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African (MOCAA). Cape Town, South Africa.

African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian lnsti1ution, Washington, D.C, USA.

Dress Code, Gallery MOMO, Cape Town, South Africa.

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (Gallery Momo), Somerset House, London, UK.

Art on Paper, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Cape Town Art Fair, Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), Cape Town, South Africa.

The Evidence of Things Not Seen, Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), Johannesburg, South Africa.

Another Antipodes/Urban Axis, PS Art Space. Fremon tie, Australia. Beauty and Its Beasts, Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa. ldentitet/ldentity Avesta Kommun, Verket/Avesto Art. Sweden.

Deep Memory, Kalmar konstmuseum, Kalmar. Sweden.

2016 Different Angels, Hohenrausch Linz, Austria.

Desire, Associo1ion of Arts Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa.

Re[as]sisting Narratives [Travelling Exhibition], Framer Framded, Amsterdam. Netherlands; District Six Museum Homecoming Centre, Cope Town, South Africa.

A Place in Time, Nirox Foundation Sculpture Park, Krugersdorp, South Africa.

Selling the Shadow, curated by Ayana V Jackson, Gallery MOMO, Cape Town, South Africa.

Chicago Expo (Gallery MOMO) Chicago. USA.

After the Thri/t is Gone. Fashion Politics and Culture South Africa, Richmond Center for Visual Arts. USA. South Africa the Art of a Nation, British Museum, London, UK.

2015 Barriers – Contemporary South Africa, Wonas Konst Sculpture Park, Knislinge, Sweden.

Art_textile, The Whitworth, Manchester, UK.

NIROXSCULPTURE WINTER, 2015 | OUTDOOR VOL I, Nirox Foundation Sculpture Park, Krugersdorp, South Africa.

Between the Art and the Experience, Havana Biennial, Havana, Cuba.

Twenty: Art in the Time of Democracy, UJ Arts Centre. University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Representations of Otherness and Resistance, Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery. Bloemfontein. South Africa.

ReSignifications: Imagining the Block Body and Re-Staging Histories, Museo Bardini, Florence, Italy.

South African Art in a Time of Democracy, 6th Beijing International Art Biennale. Beijing. China.

2014 Where do I end and you begin?, Edinburgh Festival of Arts, Scotland.

Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto. Canada.

Material Self: Performing the Other Within, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto, Canada.

2013 Say it Loud!: Art by African and African-American Artists in the Collection, Norton Museum of Art, Florida, USA.

My Joburg, Stootliche Kunstsommlungen, Dresden, Germany; Lo Maison Rouge, Paris, France.

Family Histories, Dishman Art Museum. Lamar University, Beaumont, USA.

Sibande on Campus: Mary Sibande Installation/New Work, Institute for the Humanities Gallery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ml, USA

Meanwhile …. Suddenly and Then, 12th Lyon Biennale. Lyon, France.

Wonderworks, The Cot Street Gallery, Hong Kong. China.

2012 Recent Additions: 2009-2012, lziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.

The Rainbow Nation: Contemporary Sculpture from South Africa, Museum Beelden aan Zee, Hogue, Netherlands.

Somehow, Somewhat in the middle of things, Liefhertje en De Grote Witte Reus Gallery, Hogue, Netherlands.

Say it loud, Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, Florido, USA.

2011 (Re)constructions, Contemporary Art from South Africa, Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi (MAC), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

ARS I I, Kiasma Museum for Contemporary Ar1. Helsinki, Finland.

Desire, Narratives in Contemporary South African Art, 54th Venice Biennale (South African Pavilion), Venice, Italy.

Paris Photo, Grand Polois, Paris, France.

FNB Joburg Art Fair (Gallery MOMO), Sandton Convention Centre. Johannesburg, South Africa.

BEYOND Re/PRODUCTION. MOTHERING, Kunstroum Kreuzberg / Bethanien, Berlin, Germany.

2010 From Pierneef to Gugulective: 1910-2010, lziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.

Joburg Art Fair, (Gallery MOMO), Sondton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa.

l’Exposition du Festival Mondial des Arts Negres, Dakar, Senegal.

Space: Currencies in Contemporary African Art, curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe & Melissa Mboweni, Museum Africa.Johannesburg. South Africa.

Art on Paper, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa.

2008 Four Tales, Gallery MOMO. Johannesburg, South Africa.

2007 SA Arts Emerging, Vega School of Design, Cope Town, South Africa.

Dark and lovely (5 Women). Gordart Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.

1999 Honor’s Degree Show, FADA Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.

I Love you Positive or Negative, Espace Simon Michel, Paris, Fronce.

2006 Aardklop Festival Potchefestroom, South Africa.

Waste Art Exhibition, Rosebonk Moll, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Sasol Miniatures Exhibition, Sasol, Johannesburg, South Africa.

40 x 40 x 40 (KKNK) KKN Kunstefees, Oudtshoorn, South Africa.

ABSA L’ATELIER Awards Top 50 exhibition, ABSA Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.

I Love You Positive or Negative, Alliance Francaise, Johannesburg, South Africa.

2005 David Krul Publications in collaboration with Johannesburg ARTBANK, David Krul Studios, Johannesburg, South Africa.




Mary Sibande — Art in Lockdown - Mary Sibande

Mary Sibande shares her thoughts on COVID-19 and what it’s like to be working in isolation during the pandemic.