Exploring the construction of identity in the era of post-apartheid South Africa, Mary Sibande makes sculptures and paintings employing the female figure. The Domba Dance invokes and acknowledges the evolution of Sibande’s iconic ‘Sophie’ figure, her alter-ego, who is now moving into her ‘red phase.’ The so-called ‘domba dance’ (also called the ‘python dance’) is performed by young women during an initiation ceremony symbolizing fertility and sexuality as part of their transition into adulthood. At the core of the work is the preservation of the heart. In the Zulu language – and more broadly Nguni-speaking people – the heart is associated with a wide spectrum of emotions such as anger, impatience, and tolerance. Expressions in Zulu also present variations on themes of anger with the heart filling up with rage, when tolerance and patience come to an end. Anger manifests destruction which threatens to consume the figure harboring it, a theme that speaks to the current despondency in contemporary South Africa.
Mary Sibande (born 1982 in Barberton, South Africa) is primarily interested in questions of the body and how to reclaim the black female body in post-colonial and post-apartheid South Africa. She represented South Africa at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011) and her work has been exhibited internationally in museums, including the MET Breuer (2018), the British Museum (2016), Kalmar Konstmuseum, Sweden (2017), and Cairns Art Gallery (2019). Sibande lives and works in Johannesburg.