(“Cry Havoc “by Mary Sibande, courtesy of the artist & Gallery MOMO)
An exhibition entitled Beauty and its Beasts, designed to stimulate contemplation about women and raise questions about the way we create, perpetuate or allow gender stereotypes, is running at the Durban Art Gallery.
The collections of the Durban Art Gallery have been excavated to unearth works that speak directly to the evolution of the female stereotype. The exhibition examines how the stereotype was created and how artists have either perpetuated the phenomenon or subverted it. The works on view were selected primarily from the collections of the Durban Art Gallery and where gaps were identified, works have been borrowed from other collections. The viewer will be guided by the wall text identifying themes and it is here the voices of the collaborators bring resonance and add strata to the selections.
Works borrowed from other art collections include Mary Sibande’s Cry Havoc and Zanele Muholi’s Condoms & Feet – contemporary pieces that sit provocatively alongside Hubert von Herkomer’s Queen Victoria.
“What’s in a stereotype, it’s a label to enhance or reduce an ego, and rarely one’s own choice. Some stereotypes are flattering but more often they are used to insult or belittle. Stereotype is a notion based on prejudice rather than fact which by repetition and with time, stereotypes become fixed in people’s minds. The famous art collective ‘Guerilla Girls’ describe a stereotype as: a box, usually too small that a girl gets jammed into and an archetype as a pedestal usually too high that a girl gets lifted onto,” considers DAG’s Jenny Stretton.
Stereotypes are born in utero: from the time a child is born it is gender coded through clothing and the colours assigned to the objects around it. As a girl grows, she will encounter stereotypes at every stage of her life. Stereotypes are born in popular culture and have a strong connection to language and graphic design. The media, TV, Facebook, magazines, internet, music and newspapers are the most influential practitioners of stereotyping and wield enormous power over this projection.
The exhibition is curated by Jenny Stretton with collaboration from Jessica Bothma; Carol Brown; Nindya Bucktowar; Zinhle Khumalo; Sinethemba Ngubane; Osmosisliza; Fran Saunders and Swany. Works have been loaned from Campbell Collections, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Everard Read CIRCA Cape Town; GALLERYMOMO, Cape Town; Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg and the UNISA Permanent Collection, Pretoria.
Beauty and its Beasts will be on display at the Durban Art Gallery until May 28, 2017. Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday from 08h30 to 16h00. Sundays 11h00 to 16h00.
School groups are welcome to use this exhibition as a visual tool for debate around issues of gender, prejudice and stereotypes– special educational guided walkabouts can be arranged on request.
The Durban Art Gallery is situated on the second floor of the Durban City Hall, entrance in Anton Lembede (formerly Smith) Street opposite the Playhouse. More information on 031 311 2262/6.