‘I’m looking at history and I want to distort it, I want to turn it upside down, I want to question it, I want to punch it, I want to love it.’ Mary Sibande (b. 1982)
In ‘A Reversed Retrogress: Scene 1 (The Purple Shall Govern)’, artist Mary Sibande provides a powerful personal and collective commentary on the past, present and future of South Africa through two figures, both cast from her own body. The blue figure, called Sophie, refers to Sibande’s mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, who were maids in white South African households. The second figure, in purple, represents Sibande herself.
The Purple Shall Govern relates to the statement ‘the people shall govern’, from the 1955 Freedom Charter and post-apartheid constitution. It also refers to the Purple Rain Protests of 1989, when protesters captured the police water cannon being used to spray them with purple dye and turned it on their assailants. Over the following days the slogan ‘the purple shall govern’ was painted on walls around Cape Town. Although a tension remains, Sibande is saying goodbye to Sophie, her past, and confronting the ‘purple’ present and future.
South Africa: the art of a nation
27 October 2016 – 27 February 2017
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Mary Sibande (b. 1982), A Reversed Retrogress: Scene 1 (The Purple Shall Govern), 2013. © Mary Sibande. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery MOMO.
Mesmerize by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license