South Africa: Needle and Thread Rebellions for a Broken World

analysis

'Has the pen or the pencil dipped so deep in the blood of the human race as the needle?' Olive Schreiner once asked. Maverick Citizen examines the revival of the so-called feminine arts as acts of radical engagement in world problems.

At a recent exhibition of work by young artist-activists, Sydney Adams, who calls herself an "art-school drop-out", sewed blank cotton dolls in diverse flesh-like colours. Participants in this art intervention were invited to stuff tissues, wet wipes, bandages, tea bags and dried lavender into the openings Adams had closed up with zips. "The stuffing of the dolls is two things: violation by another on the one hand, and healing by the self on the other. People get to think about what women hold, what they carry." The installation was called Build-A-Woman. (Photo: Karin Schimke)

A few years ago, a young man was visiting Willemien de Villiers' Muizenburg studio. He was gazing at the images pegged up on a kind of washing line on the wall while De Villiers chatted to his mother.

"I saw him peer more closely at one of the pictures and then I saw him recoil. He actually jerked back."

De Villiers looks out on to...

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