UJ’s Alumna, Mary Sibande form the Department of Visual Art

UJ’s Arts graduate, Mary Sibande from the Department of Visual Art within the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture(FADA) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) will be recognised at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art during its second annual African Art Awards Dinner on Friday, 17 October 2017, at the Smithsonian’s iconic Arts and Industries Building in the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The National Museum of African Art is the only museum in the United States dedicated to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of Africa’s arts across time period, geography and medium. Founded as a small museum on Capitol Hill in 1964, it became part of the Smithsonian in 1979 and in 1987 moved to its current location on the National Mall. The museum’s collection of 12,000 artworks represents the diversity of the African continent and includes a variety of media from jewellery to painting, photography, pottery, sculpture, textile and video and sound art dating from ancient to present times.

“We are delighted to recognise the outstanding achievements of Alice Walton, Ghada Amer and Mary Sibande, three remarkable women whose compelling contributions to philanthropy and art recognise the potency of women to confront globally relevant issues of gender, identity, inequality, access, privilege and power. Engaging our visitors in understanding the aesthetic achievements of historic and contemporary African artists is at the heart of our museum’s mission,” said Christine Mullen Kreamer, acting director of the museum.

“Honor, Inspire and Include” is the theme of this year’s dinner. The dynamic celebration of art, culture and philanthropy will feature artists, speakers and honorees as part of the museum’s larger women’s initiative a commitment begun in 2012 and launched as a sustained initiative in 2017 to emphasise the creative voices of African women artists through the National Museum of African Art’s collections, research, publications and exhibitions. The 2017 artist honorees are internationally renowned artists Ghada Amer and Mary Sibande and philanthropist Alice Walton.

Sibande was born in Barberton, South Africa, in 1982. She obtained her Diploma in Fine Arts at the Witwatersrand Technikon in 2004 and a B-Tech degree from the University of Johannesburg in 2007. Sibande, whose mother and grandmother were domestic labourers, was one of the first in her family to achieve such a high level of education. She drew on this history to inspire her artistic practice, particularly through her recurring character and alter ego, Sophie.

In many of Sibande’s sculptural and photographic works, Sophie wears an instantly recognisable maid’s uniform to which Sibande adds glamorous references to Victorian costumes. The resulting dresses consciously upend the master/servant dichotomy, transforming labourers into super “she roes,” conquerors and belles of the ball.

Sibande’s work critiques stereotypical depictions of women and privileged ideals of femininity, particularly those surrounding black and African women. Her practice powerfully examines identity construction and power dynamics within a post-colonial, post-apartheid South African context.

The University of Johannesburg and the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture would like to congratulate Mary Sibande on her outstanding achievement.

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