Mary Sibande


Last year 19 buildings in the Johannes- burg CBD were wrapped in the image of Sophie, a domestic worker, her blue Victorian dress billowing around her, eyes closed dreamily. The exhibition, titled Long Live the Dead Queen, was part of a public art project, Johannesburg Art City World Premiere Annual Exhibition � giant building-wraps in the inner city � which premiered in June to coincide with the 2010 World Cup. Sophie was conceived by visual artist Mary Sibande, who received a BTech honours degree in fine art from the University of Johannesburg in 2007 � the first woman in her family to get a university education. The artist, born in 1982, works in various media, including painting, sculpture and photography. The sculpture of Sophie was cast from Sibande's own body, which she uses to explore the domestic worker's status �her dreams, her aspirations. She regards the domestic worker figure as a heroine and her work is a celebration of this woman, who is, in many ways, the mother of the nation. But the image she has conjured up is far from the domestic worker of our private spaces or that of apartheid's imagination. Sibande was, perhaps, the most celebrated South African artist in 2010 and her busy itinerary reflects this � her work was featured in the group shows Pierneef to Gugulactive from 1910 to 2010 at the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, and l'Exposition du Festival Mondial des Arts N�gres in Dakar. She has received a number of residencies and fellowships, which have included stints in France, Germany, Switzerland, New York, Italy, Washington, DC and Finland. � Percy Zvomuya