Mary Sibande, a sculptor, photographer and visual artist, hails from Johannesburg. Through her alter-ego Sophie, she explores the body and critiques the stereotypical depiction of black women, seeking to reclaim their identity in postcolonial and post-apartheid South Africa. ‘I Put A Spell On You’ forms part of her exhibition Long live the dead Queen, and incorporates life-size mannequins whose faces have been cast from her own.
Dressed in elaborate Victorian costumes reconfigured as a domestic worker’s uniform, the mannequins portray the colonial relationship between servant and master. Ironically, the shrouds of material in which the ‘maid’ is enveloped prevents her from carrying out her chores, thereby inverting the costume’s social power and transforming her into iconic, powerful characters—in this case, a Pope blessing his followers. Sibande’s work reflects her own life and honors her mother and grandmother, who were both domestic workers.
Through photography, Dillon Marsh touches on environmentalism and our deliberate or unintentional relationship with the world around us. His intriguing images, which often incorporate CGI, emphasize specific elements in suburban and rural areas, from nature to man-made objects. ‘For What It’s Worth’ —the series in which this work features—visually juxtaposes a mine’s total output in precious metals or stones with various mines in South Africa.
Ayana V. Jackson is a world-renowned American photographer and filmmaker who explores contemporary Africa and societies within the African diaspora. Through self-portraiture and performance, she depicts varying constructed African and African-American identities, and focuses on how photographic media has objectified the black female body historically and in the present.
In the exhibition ‘Dear Sarah’ (2016), Jackson pays tribute to Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a 19th century ‘African princess’ who was raised as the goddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her portraits, at once haunting and captivating, evoke a sense of shame at the historical allusions to slavery and an appreciation of the woman as a powerful subject in art.
Cameroonian painter and multimedia artist Joël Mpah Dooh finds passion in experimentation in art. He explores the fragile nature of human identity, how it evolves over time, and its relationship with modern society. Dooh works on paper, aluminium, canvas, corrugated iron, and perspex.
His works depict abstract figures in a variety of scenes, drawing on his own history and experiences as a contemporary artist living in Africa. Dooh has exhibited in Africa, Austria, France, Cuba, Lebanon, and the United States.
American artist Florine Demosthene grew up between Portau-Prince, Haiti and New York. Her work examines the black female body and the stereotypical views they are associated with. She created her series of paintings, titled ‘The Capture’, during her travels in the Caribbean and West Africa, and depicts black women as alluring, voluptuous heroines in a contrasting world of destruction.
Angolan-born Pedro Pires has a Masters in Fine Arts from the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and currently works between Luanda and Lisbon. He addresses issues of identity and stereotypes within different societies through a range of installation art. Pires uses an intriguing mix of media and everyday objects before reorganizing them in an absurd fashion to create characters that simultaneously confront and confound the viewer. The objects used and the contexts in which they are found are carefully curated to create a space for new meaning.
Maurice Mbikayi, a multi-media artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, explores themes of identity, history and the positive and negative effects of modern technology on humanity, particularly in Africa. His work incorporates performance, video and life-size sculptures made of discarded computer paraphernalia, wood, fibreglass and other materials.
Born in London to a Nigerian father and German mother, and having grown up in Basel, Switzerland, Ransome Stanley’s cross-cultural savviness provides the inspiration behind his work. Stanley explores issues of race and identity by using 19th century Western images of Africa, mythological symbols and images from the media, redefining them to create new meaning. He experiments with spacial dimension and texture, and his paintings often feature photo-realistic portraits of animals, people, and found objects. In his exhibition, ‘New Works’, Stanley explores heritage in a globalized era, and creates a link between Africa and Europe, and the past and present. Stanley has exhibited internationally, and he lives and works in Germany.
Sethembile Msezane recently graduated with a Masters in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town. Working with performance, sculpture and photography, Msezane addresses the absence of the black female in public and private spaces. The artwork depicted is part of her MFA exhibition, ‘Kwasuka Sukela: Re-imagined Bodies of a (South African) 90s Born Woman’, which features a series of installations depicting black women embedded in Victorian furniture.
This particular work explores the territorial expansion and conquest of Africa. It depicts an antique door from the Kimberly Hotel in Roeland Street, Cape Town that has been transformed into a portal into the past, re-imagining the discussions and plans that may have occurred about African conquest over a dinner table. These conversations seldom included women, except when the table needed to be cleared by female servants. Collectively Msezane’s works explore the need to resist domination and affirm self-definition.
American photographer Roger Ballen has lived and worked in Johannesburg for over 30 years. His large body of work, developed over a period of four decades, began in the style of documentary photography but has since evolved to include fictionalized tableaus of people, their homes, domestic animals and found objects. In his recent series, ‘Boarding House’ and ‘Asylum of the Birds’, Ballen employs a range of media to create theatrical sets that blur the line between photography and art. In these strange and dark photographs, people are no longer featured as before, but are instead replaced with photographs, dummy parts, drawings and disembodied limbs.