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Sarah Baartman focus

ONE does not hesitate to use words like creative and imaginative in defining the artistic skills of Senzeni Marasela.

The Benoni-born visual artist offers more than that. In her latest exhibition at the Art on Paper Gallery in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Marasela continues to visualise her personal and social life.

This time she focuses on herself, Sarah Baartman and Theodorah (her mother). The three-series art works celebrate and relate to various stages of Baartman's life.

The first series looks at where Baartman was born in Eastern Cape. The other art works follow her movement to Cape Town and how she was subsequently shipped to London and then Paris, where she died.

In some works Marasela and Theodorah dress up Baartman in the presence of various onlookers. They seem to be participating in a ritual of covering up her body, which, ironically, had been admired for most of her adult life for its naked sexuality.

"For all her life Bartman has been naked. It's time for her to be respected and be clothed like other women," Marasela says.

With these works Marasela is re-inventing another persona for Baartman and representing her in a different way, thus creating a new history for Baartman.

Theodorah has been the subject of Marasela's work over the past couple of years. She has been portrayed as a distant and alien mother in her insularity.

Marasela's mother has accompanied her to the big city before.

"I brought Sarah to Joburg because this is where everyone comes before going somewhere. This is a new era for her. She is searching for her dreams," she says.

Marasela has used red ink as a metaphor "because African history was written in blood".

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