Somerset House, London, is hosting an exhibition of Mary Sibande’s work – I Came Apart at the Seams – until 5th January 2020. One of South Africa’s most prominent contemporary artists, Sibande explores blackness, femininity, injustice and the modern history of South Africa. This is her first solo exhibition in the UK.
Putting herself as a muse and a storyteller at once, Sibande takes us on a transitional journey of a South African woman during Apartheid through her alter-ego “Sophie”, a persona that continues to grow. Taking form as a series of colourful human-scale sculptures modelled on Sibande herself, Sophie transgresses from her humble beginnings as a domestic housemaid into myriad empowered characters, transcending racial bias and marginalisation.
The sculptures are cast mannequins frozen in a moment of metamorphosis, a moment of action, covered in handmade costumes created and conceptualised by Sibande herself. The use of different materials, mediums, colours and metaphors in her work engage us to seek deeper meanings. Her work is not only an awareness of an important time in history but also an empowering narrative of her own self and identity.
Through the work, Sibande speaks about own mother and grandmother who were a part of the struggle and explores a time when women of her community did not have any other option but to be a maid and serve to higher claimed classes. It is a culturally and politically provocative mix of artwork, which while dark and serious, remains easy to engage with.
Somerset House made a short film of a conversation between the artist and a group of British women, who work with textiles and fabrics:
For more information visit www.somersethouse.org.uk
Guest blog post by Niyati Hirani.