is important in South Africa – we make it important. Colour places you, colour
tells where you are within the geography of South Africa. And when I thought of
colour, I realised that I cannot ignore the incident that happened in 1989.’ – Mary Sibande
This 2013 work by Sibande is
called A Reversed Retrogress: Scene 1 (The Purple Shall Govern). Sibande cast these
figures from her body. The one in Victorian
dress, called Sophie, refers to her 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.
See this incredible work in our exhibition South
Africa: the art of a nation (27 October 2016 – 26 February 2017).
Sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan. Logistics partner IAG Cargo
Mary Sibande (b. 1982), A Reversed
Retrogress: Scene 1 (The Purple Shall Govern), 2013. © Mary Sibande.
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery MOMO.