New Sibande artwork a reminder that ‘women are stronger as a group’
Award-winning South African artist Mary Sibande has created a new artwork to be auctioned off for charity.
The painting – titled Umhlangano – will go on auction on November 30 at Gallery MOMO. The oil and acrylic work (whose title means “the gathering”) is on four panels of canvas and it was created by Sibande alongside four young women during a two-and-a-half week workshop.
Proceeds from the auction will go to ActionAid South Africa’s women’s rights work.
“When we were sharing stories‚ we spoke about what it’s like to be a black woman in South Africa‚” said Sibande. “The women spoke a lot about their gender‚ their sexuality and being unable to express themselves. I then turned their words into visual metaphors and pictures.”
She described the work as “the medium to protest against this patriarchy that has existed over centuries”‚ saying it was a reminder that “we as women are stronger as a group”. This was why the painting takes up four panels: they represent the voices of the women involved in its creation.
“It was important to unify these different voices… Each panel cannot exist without the other.”
As queer people‚ we have fought for acceptance‚ and up to this day we are not accepted
She continued: “The final piece for me represents unity‚ standing together‚ a gathering of young women fighting against inequality. It also represents an alternative future where black women are in control of where they want to be‚ where the black female body is free.”
This is the second year that Sibande has teamed up with ActionAid.
One of the women who collaborated on the work was Mpilo Mpanza‚ 27‚ from KwaThema. She said: “As queer people‚ we have fought for acceptance‚ and up to this day we are not accepted. It is important for me as a young black queer woman to send the message that we are here to stay.”
For Thelma Mwale‚ 23‚ from Diepsloot‚ the artwork represents her fight against xenophobia in South Africa. “I have seen so many challenges towards foreigners. They are being attacked for many reasons. So when I came [to the workshop] I was able to draw what I feel about being a foreigner. As a woman you are just a person from another country that doesn’t have a say in the community‚ someone who doesn’t belong here.”
For ActionAid SA‚ teaming up with Sibande was a no-brainer. “Mary represents the perfect role model for the young women we work with. She is creative and provides a politically astute and relevant message through her artwork‚” said the organisation’s director‚ Fatima Shabodien.
On why she got involved‚ Sibande said: “I wanted to give back‚ and to listen to young voices and understand their struggles. Abuse and sexual harassment is everywhere. It’s important to be an activist in this. I can’t just make work and put it in a gallery.”
Mary Sibande was recently awarded the African Artist accolade from the Smithsonian in Washington‚ where her work is on the permanent collection.