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Senzeni Marasela celebrates South Africa’s invisible women

2 min read  ·  16 May 2023

Senzeni Marasela is on the HENI News radar after an installation featuring the Soweto-based artist’s signature, and highly symbolic, red dresses was acquired by a major art museum in Germany.

Senzeni Marasela's HENI Score—a unique artist’s sentiment index—has soared 165% after the South African artist was named the first recipient of the K21 Global Art Award.

The prestigious Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Dusseldorf has displayed and acquired an installation by the award-winning Soweto-based artist. She works across a range of media, including textiles, video, photography, painting and performance, to address black identity and gender inequalities during the era of Apartheid.

Marasela, who was born in 1977, was among the artists who represented South Africa at the 2015 Venice Biennale but her work remains largely untested at auction. The artist’s embroidered pieces and watercolors, often depicting black South African women, have been priced around $3,000 to $12,000 in the past two years.

The K21 Global Art Award, presented in April 2023 by the Friends of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Dusseldorf, is a new prize for artists under the age of 45. Her installation in Dusseldorf features emotionally charged red dresses, which often appear in her work.

The dresses made from seshweshwe material belong to the artist’s fictional alter ego “Theodora Mthetyane”. It was a gift from her husband, “Gebane”, when he left the countryside to find work in Johannesburg. Theodora's husband never returned. As a durational performance piece, the artist wore red dresses herself for six years, which meant she became invisible in polite society, mistaken for a member of the catering staff at one glitzy party in Cape Town, she told News 24 website.

In 2021, Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA organised the artist’s first major solo museum show. Titled “Waiting for Gebane”, elements of the exhibition then travelled to the Johannesburg Art Gallery in her home city.

Also in 2021, her work was included in “The “Power of My Hands: Africa(s) Women Artist” at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. In 2022, Marasela’s embroidery work was part of a group show “Fibre” at Hales Gallery, New York.

To find out more about Senzeni Marasela, see her HENI Dashboard. A unique feature of HENI News, HENI Dashboards allows you to discover thousands of artists who you may not be familiar with along with well-known names.