Letting Sophie go
The pieces are scary. Disconcerting. But then, that’s often what change feels like, I thought as I checked out The Purple Shall Govern, Mary Sibande’s exhibition at the Standard Bank Arts Gallery in Joburg last Friday.
The show, starring Mary’s Sophie, is about change. That sometimes murky, get-me-the-hell-out-of-here space between now and what’s to come – even if you know better things are on the way.
The Purple Shall Govern is kind of a final appearance for Sophie, the alter-ego for which Mary has become so well-known. Sophie, a domestic worker, has taken on varies identities over the years. I guess, she’s always been changing. This is the first time, I’ve seen her in real life (and all her intricate fineness; it's obvious that a lot of work and thought has gone into each piece).
According to the gallery’s info brochure, Mary “has decided to move on, to do something different and, in the process, to ‘let Sophie go’ and allow new ideas to take root and grow.” The brochure also explains the significance of the colour, purple and the title of the show (if you were wondering).
The exhibition includes five life-sized Sophies (mannequins) in different set-ups and also photos depicting scenes of her transition. One with fierce bullterriers (depicting a mix of violence and perhaps fear?) and another one with four rocking horses (the friendly four of the apocalypse?), among them. Most striking perhaps is old Sophie versus the new, transforming Sophie.
In many of the ‘scenes’, you’ll notice that Mary has introduced some writhing worm-like creatures. The brochure mentions: “The creatures are Sophie turned inside out. They are a look at intestines, an inspection of the mess within.”
Coincidentally, Mary was at the gallery while I was there. I was kind of star-struck and asked to take a photo like real paparazzi (man, it’s this blog! and then in all my nervousness I 'flashed' her out - boo). Ughhh and all I could blurt out was why she decided not to just let Sophie fade away. Mary answered that she didn’t just want to let her go. Sophie’s always been there, that her being will be forever be in her work. But now, new things are coming.
The exhibition is on until 7 June 2014, so if you haven’t been you still have this week to go have a look. More details here.