Mary Sibande South Africa, b. 1982

Overview

Mary Sibande is a sculptor, painter, and installation artist whose work not only interrogates the current intersections of race, gender, and labor in South Africa, it actively rewrites her own family’s legacy of forced domestic work imposed by the then-Apartheid state. Through photography and sculpture, Sibande employs the human form as a vehicle for a focused critique of stereotypical depictions of women, particularly Black women in South Africa. For Sibande, the body is the site where 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 work, a persona by the name of Sophie, who is dressed in various uniforms that resemble those worn by domestic workers. Turning these dress styles into Victorian motifs, Sibande reanimates Sophie’s history through the ways her body is adorned, to occupy the narratives that were stolen from and denied to her. This is not just a political act, but one of transformation, as Sophie takes on new incarnations of herself unbound from the history of servitude and labor that extends into the present’s 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 personhoods of African women who continue to create worlds and narratives outside of the Western imperialist canon.

 

Based in Johannesburg, Sibande has taken part in the 2011 Venice Biennale as the representative of South Africa; Lyon Biennial; Dakar Biennial; and Havana Biennial, among others. She has exhibited internationally in leading museums, including the Met Breuer, New York, USA; British Museum, London, UK; Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa; JAG (Johannesburg Art Gallery), Johannesburg, South Africa; Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston, USA; Musée d’art Contemporain de Lyon, France; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; Museum of Contemporary Art, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Kiasma Museum for Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland; Museum Beelden aan Zee, Hague, Netherlands; and Somerset House, London, UK, among others. Sibande’s works are included in prominent collections internationally, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC, USA; Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, USA; Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, USA; UMMA (University of Michigan Museum of Art), Ann Arbor, USA; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, USA; Zeitz MOCCA, Cape Town, South Africa; Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, France; and Iziko South African Museums, Cape Town, South Africa. Forthcoming exhibitions include Mary Sibande: Blue Red Purple at the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, USA, and her work is currently on view at Frac Nouvelle-Aquitaine MÉCA in Bordeaux, France.

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