South African artist Mary Sibande was born in 1982, inheriting the weight of a family history defined by three generations of domestic servitude. Growing up in Barberton, Mpumalanga, she entered adulthood in the long and lingering shadow of post-Apartheid South Africa, and graduated in 2007 with a degree in visual art from the University of Johannesburg.
Within this wide wake of postcolonialism, Sibande boldly set out to craft a hybrid view of all that had come before combined with a future vision of the self. Like other artists of her generation, Sibande resides in the past, present, and future, understanding the complexity of these profound seismic cultural shifts. Her work is less about a clear trajectory than it is about what remains to be seen, manifested, or realized. Sibande’s immense, costumed, sculptural figures—representative of the women in her family and herself—seem to hold court, enveloping the room. With them, Sibande constructs fantastical visual narratives, offering a stage for inquiry and further examination of ongoing questions about race, gender, and class.