national Arts Festival Banner

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


(A non-winged being by Mary Sibande)

The Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg is currently hosting The Purple Shall Govern, an exhibition by Mary Sibande who is this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist.

Sibande is known for her surreal, dramatic installations involving an alter-ego figure (Sophie) dressed up in a series of larger than life costumes, surrounded by other strange objects. The designs and colours of Sophie's dresses are signifiers that reference uniforms of domestic workers, overalls of labourers, robes of local Zion Church worshippers and Victorian garments.

As a young woman, Sibande is concerned about the meaning of womanhood, especially with respect to perceptions of birth, rebirth, growth and death. In previous works she explored Sophie's identity and history, referring to her maternal great grandmother, her grandmother and her mother.

For her current exhibition, The Purple Shall Govern, she has created a new body of art works that includes an installation comprised of two life-size figures, three digital pigment prints of Sophie and an installation of suspended creatures made of polyester and cotton fabric. The new art works are about Sibande's me-time and creating of her-self, prioritising her own desires and experiences without accounting for the three generations of women in her family.

Since 2006, Sibande has participated in a number of residencies in France, Switzerland, the USA and Germany. Her work has been seen in major cultural centres worldwide: Paris, Venice, Helsinki, Rio de Janeiro and Dakar. In 2010, 19 of her photographic portrayals of Sophie were wrapped around buildings in Johannesburg. She has been invited to Italy in 2014.

The Purple Shall Govern runs in the Main Exhibition Room at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg until November 3. 2013.

For further information contact Bryony Clark at 033 392 2825 (mornings only) or email or visit