Detail of Tears of Africa, 1987-1988
Born in the village of Marapyane, Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi learned the traditional techniques of wall painting and ceramics from her grandmother. She moved to Johannesburg as an adolescent. Between the 1970s and 80s, she participated in courses and workshops in spaces that put her in contact with other artists and a politicized environment, which would impact the theme of her works. Sebidi portrays everyday experiences and ancestral wisdom, as well as the suffering caused by apartheid, especially for black women. From her teatchers and fellow artists she absorbed techniques of collage and abstract elements, germinating and developing into the emblematic diptych Tears of Africa (1987-1988), presented at the 32nd Bienal. The work, produced in charcoal, ink and collage, deals with continental conflicts as well as the harshness of human relations in the daily life of the big city and its disappointments, aggravated by the breakdown of family structures and the regime of segregation officialy in place in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. Also showing is new work created during an artistic residency and research program in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. The work creates a conversation connecting Brazil and the continent of her birth, and activates a dialogue between the two works.