Mary Sibande, born in Barberton, South Africa, in 1982, lives and works in Johannesburg. She
obtained her Diploma in Fine Arts at the Witwatersrand Technikon in 2004 and an Honours Degree
from the University of Johannesburg in 2007. Sibande represented South Africa at the 54th Venice
Biennale in 2011 and her project ‘Long Live the Dead Queen’ was found on murals all over the city
of Johannesburg in 2010. Sibande is the recipient of several awards namely, the 2017 Smithsonian
National Museum of African Arts Award, University of Johannesburg’s Alumni Dignitas Award in
2014 and the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Arts. Her work ‘The Purple Shall
Govern’ toured South Africa, ending in Johannesburg at the Standard Bank Gallery in 2014. She is
the 2018-2019 Virginia C. Gildersleeve Professor at Barnard College at the Columbia University. In
addition, Mary has been the recipient of several residencies and fellowships, including the
Smithsonian Fellowship in Washington DC, the Ampersand Foundation Fellowship in New York
and the University of Michigan Fellowship.

Sibande’s work not only engages as an interrogator of the current intersections of race, gender and
labour in South Africa; but continues to actively rewrite her own family’s legacy of forced domestic
work imposed by the then Apartheid State. Sibande employs the human form as a vehicle through
photography and sculpture as a focused critique on the stereotypical depictions of women,
particularly black women in South Africa. The body, for Sibande, and particularly how we clothe it,
is the site where this history is contested and where Sibande’s own fantasies can play out.

This counter history takes the form of an alter-ego in Sibande’s early work, a persona by the name
of ‘Sophie’ who is dressed in various uniforms that resemble the dresses worn by domestic
workers. Altering these dress styles into Victorian motifs, Sibande completely reanimates Sophie’s
history through how her body is adorned and the way she occupies these narratives that were
stolen and denied from her. This is not just a political act, but one of transformation, as Sophie
takes on new incarnations of herself unbound from the laboured history of servitude; as it relates to
the present in terms of domestic relationships. Transitioning from blue to purple to red, Sibande
introduces us not only to the many faces of herself and ‘Sophie’, but to the complex person hoods
of African Women who continue to create worlds and narratives outside of the canon of Western

In her newest work, we witness ‘Sophie’ as the High Priestess becoming the space between two
realms; between the past and future, between what has been and what could be – she is fleeting, a
personification of mystery and spirit which is unknown to the rational world. In this work, Sibande
offers insight into the past, present and future, interpreting biblical and philosophical texts on
wisdom into personal visions and prophecy. The Priestess represents magic and possibility
through ancient cultural practices associated with sorcery whose traditions continue into the
present day. Most importantly, she attempts to exploit supernatural forces by summoning the
spiritual and medicinal role inherent to magic and its associated rituals, gestures and languages.

Sibande has exhibited the world over in internationally leading museums. In 2010 she took part in
the L’Exposition du Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres in Dakar, and her work was featured in the
review From Pierneef to Gugulective: 1910-2010. Other galleries and events where her work has
been shown include: the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town (2010); Museum of
Contemporary Art, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2011); the Kiasma Museum for Contemporary Art in
Helsinki, Museum Beelden aan Zee, Hague, Netherlands (2012); the Musée d’Art Contemporain
du Val-de-Marne, Paris,France (2013). Lyon Biennale 2013, Lyon, France; Musée Léon Driex,
Saint Denis, la Réunion Island (2014); Dishman Art Museum, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas,
USA; The Whitworth Museum, Manchester, UK (2015);

The British Museum, London ,UK (2016); Kalmar Konstmuseum, Sweden (2017); Cairns Art
Gallery, Cairns, Australia(2019); The MET Breuer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, (2018).

Sibande’s works are included in prominent collections internationally, including Toledo Museum of
Art, Toledo, USA; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art,
Washington, DC; Virginia Museum of Fine Art; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago,
IIL USA; Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, France and Iziko South African Museums,
South Africa.