Cape Town – On 18 December 2020, Zeitz MOCAA presents a long-due institutional focus on the work of Senzeni Marasela.
Marasela, who was born in Thokoza, South Africa, is an artist whose mediums include photography, video, prints, textiles and embroidery. Her work deals with history, memory, and personal narrative, and emphasises historical gaps and overlooked female figures.
Titled Waiting for Gebane, the exhibition is an overview of the artist’s practice, and centres around Theodorah Mthetyane, Marasela’s fictional alter ego who was inspired by, and is a femage to her mother.
Theodorah’s story begins when her husband, Gebane, leaves her behind in a village in the Eastern Cape when he sets off to work in faraway Johannesburg. After many years of waiting, Theodorah leaves the village for the sprawling city streets to look for her partner. In a series of photographs and textile works, Marasela wears her mother’s yellow ishweshwe dress to depict Theodorah’s search for Gebane while simultaneously honouring her mother.
In a later performance of the character that blurs the lines between performativity and everyday life, Marasela wore for six consecutive years exclusively the same red ishweshwe dress. Through Theodorah, the artist sought to explore the conditions of waiting and the stories of black women in South Africa, to make visible their subjectivities.
In speaking about the performance, Marasela says: “The idea of having multiple dresses throughout my performance work for Waiting for Gebane, was about an attempt to live or to walk in many shoes. Shoes that were sometimes smaller than mine, bigger than mine, wider than mine.
“But it was an attempt to multiply this experience, this heavy experience of being a black woman on the continent. And when I do re-enact, I re-enact with the aim of changing, of altering, changing until I find a comfortable position to be in as an artist, as a person.”
Koyo Kouoh, Executive Director and Chief Curator at Zeitz MOCAA says: “It is an important moment for us at Zeitz MOCAA to celebrate this artist, in presenting her first museum solo exhibition. That it is a first, is almost unfathomable – Marasela has been working consistently and steadfastly on one of the most compelling bodies of work on the African continent by a female artist.
“What fascinates me about Marasela’s work is that it addresses and carries out, by way of re-enactments, a characteristic feature of contemporary life in Africa: waiting. She adds complexity to the act of waiting and translates it into an affecting visual language that is charged with political and historical gravity.”
Waiting for Gebane opens to the public on Friday, 18 December 2020 and will be on view until 2 May 2021. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public programmes.
Exhibition title: Waiting for Gebane
Artist: Senzeni Marasela
On view: 18 December 2020 – 2 May 2021
Venue: Level 1, Exhibition Galleries
Curators: Koyo Kouoh, Storm Janse Van Rensburg, Tammy Langtry