Mary Sibande’s Sophie
Mary Sibande’s work tells the tales of our mothers who spend the days of their lives being selfless and all loving beings. When I first read about her work, I was sitting at the back of my visual art class in my matric year and felt seen; I felt seen through the woman she depicts as Sophie. I felt seen because Sophie is not just a reflection of me, an individual, but she is a reflection of my mother, her mother, Sibande’s mother, her mother, our mothers. And having an understanding that Sophie is Mary Sibande in a different form, like Jesus is to the lord, I see Sibande and her story.
The worksheet we were handed showed Sophie knitting Superman (or what looked like what Superman wears), Sophie riding a horse, Sophie liberating herself from a spider web. For me, that was a metaphor of the women I see in our world. Women who birth and raise superheroes and in doing so, provide the world with refuge. In addition to this, in seeing Sophie knit Superman I saw a reflection of the problems of our society; how women are expected to live for others, knit others and care for themselves once everyone else has been taken care of. And since Sophie wears a white doek, a Victorian era style royal blue dress with a white apron that represents the uniform of domestic workers, it also made me think of what Sibande wanted us to take home. Was it the message that we never sit down to look at what brings the world life; these women, women whom without our homes are not the same, the women we never stop to appreciate and see?
Sophie is a woman who comes from Sibande’s hands, history and heart. She is the story of the navigation of race and gender, power relations, the traumas of our colonial history and experiences as well as the intersectionality of our identities.
What do you think of Sophie?