Senzeni Marasela is a cross-disciplinary artist who explores photography, video, prints, and mixed-medium installations involving textiles and embroidery. Her work deals with history, memory, and personal narrative, emphasizing historical gaps and overlooked figures. Her work includes embroidery, print and video as well as performance and has been widely exhibited in South Africa, Europe and the US. Her work features in prominent local and international collections, including MoMA, New York. She was recently part of the Johannesburg Pavillion at the last Venice Biennale.
Born in Thokoza, South Africa, Marasela studied at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where she obtained a BA Fine Arts in 1998. In 2003 she started a project titled Theodorah comes to Johannesburg, a durational performance based on her mother Theodorah’s stories about travels from the rural area of Mvenyane to Johannesburg, a journey of 11 hours. Like many young black women in the city, her mother was traumatised by events that took place in apartheid South Africa during the 1960s. Many black women returned to live in the countryside and many more were forced to undertake journeys into strangeness. Marasela wore a yellow dress that her mother gave her, taking on Theodorah as an alter ego. The artist has always felt that Theodorah’s story was representative of that of many black women in South Africa. The emblematic yellow dress has been translated into drawings, prints and thread works, always with the figure’s back to the audience. The story of Theodorah never left Marasela’s work and has at times been combined with that of Sarah Baartman (who was ‘exhibited’ around nineteenth- century Europe as the ‘Hottentot Venus’) and of the artist herself.
Dr Sharlene Khan and Senzeni Marasela at Rhodes Fine Art Department on 26 April 2018.
VIDEO: Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with Senzeni Marasela
AUDIO: Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with Senzeni Marasela
Find Senzeni Marasela on Instagram:
My work as an Artist currently centres around narrating the life of my alter ego. Persona. Theodorah. A rural woman abandoned by her husband , comes to Johannesburg to look for him. I have taken on a journey to wear the Theodorah dress everyday . The journey has not been easily but made possible with the generosity of a number of people . Acting on my faith I have written to Art Lovers, Art Collectors and Artists and made requests that they donate a dress or dresses . The dream is to have 150 dresses. I will wear all of them , as I do with the number I have . I am under 50 dresses at the moment . I will end the project in 2019 , 1 October. #artistswork #theartofsenzenimarasela #artistmovement #searchforgebaneinmines #artistinspiration #SenzeniMarasela #davidzwirner #davidzweinergallery #smithsonian #art154fair #ArtLondon #ArtReview #cantstopwontstop #akaa @jackshainman @mariangoodmangallery #africa #African_art_collectors_magazine #moma #tatemodern #cantstopwontstop #nytimes #artwork #artist #tiwanicontemporary #gallery #ArtLondon #artbasel #artbaselmiami #icp #metropolitanmuseumofart #saatchigallery #sunujournal
Find Senzeni Marasela on Twitter:
The Artist works . Need to collect 150 of these. I will have them . Gratitude to those that donate dresses. pic.twitter.com/2mtwUVhOOi
— Senzeni M. Marasela (@ArtistSenzeni) December 3, 2014
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