Mary Sibande

Mary Sibande: Artist Profile


Mary Sibande, born in 1982 in Barberton, South Africa, is a contemporary artist known for her work in sculpture, photography, and mixed media. Sibande studied at the University of Johannesburg, where she earned her B-Tech degree in Fine Arts in 2007. Her artwork often addresses themes of race, gender, and identity in post-apartheid South Africa, drawing from her family’s history and experiences as well as her own.

Important Works

  • Long Live the Dead Queen (2009): This series of photographs features Sibande’s character, Sophie, who is depicted as a domestic worker wearing elaborate, Victorian-inspired dresses. The series addresses themes of race, gender, and power, challenging stereotypes and questioning the roles assigned to Black women in South Africa.
  • The Purple Shall Govern (2013): A mixed-media installation that includes sculptures, photographs, and textiles, The Purple Shall Govern references the anti-apartheid slogan and explores the idea of transformation and empowerment through the character of Sophie.
  • I Have Not, I Have (2014): A series of sculptures that continue to explore the character of Sophie, this time dressed in blue garments representing different forms of empowerment, such as education and personal growth.


Mary Sibande’s work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions, both nationally and internationally. Some notable exhibitions include:

  • Mary Sibande: Long Live the Dead Queen (2010): A solo exhibition at Gallery MOMO in Johannesburg, South Africa, which showcased her photographic series focusing on the character of Sophie.
  • Mary Sibande: The Reign (2014): A solo exhibition at the FNB Joburg Art Fair, which featured her I Have Not, I Have series, along with earlier works and a new installation.
  • South Africa: The Art of a Nation (2016): A group exhibition at the British Museum in London, where Sibande’s work was displayed alongside other prominent South African artists, offering a comprehensive overview of the country’s artistic history.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What artwork made Mary Sibande famous?

A: Mary Sibande’s Long Live the Dead Queen series, featuring the character Sophie, brought her international acclaim and recognition for addressing themes of race, gender, and power in post-apartheid South Africa.

Q: Why is Mary Sibande important?

A: Mary Sibande is important because her artwork challenges stereotypes, explores themes of race, gender, and identity, and offers a fresh perspective on the experiences of Black women in South Africa.

Q: Who is Sophie by Mary Sibande?

A: Sophie is a recurring character in Mary Sibande’s artwork, representing a domestic worker who transforms and empowers herself by donning elaborate, Victorian-inspired dresses. Sophie serves as a symbol of resilience and the potential for transformation in post-apartheid South Africa.

Q: What kind of artist is Mary Sibande?

A: Mary Sibande is a contemporary artist who works with sculpture, photography, and mixed media to address themes of race, gender, and identity in post-apartheid South Africa.

Q: What are some fun facts about Mary Sibande?

A: Mary Sibande is a fourth-generation South African artist, with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all having worked as domestic servants. Her family’s history and experiences have significantly influenced her artwork.

Q: Who inspired Mary Sibande?

A: Mary Sibande’s inspirations include her family’s history, personal experiences, and the broader context of South African society and culture. She has also drawn inspiration from the work of other artists, such as Frida Kahlo and Yinka Shonibare, as well as historical figures like Queen Victoria. The exploration of race, gender, and identity in her work is informed by the experiences of those who have come before her and the ongoing struggle for equality and representation in South Africa.

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