Senzeni Marasela’s Reworking of Women’s Histories in Beyond Booty: Covering Sarah Baartman and Other Tales

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3 Citations (Scopus)


In September 2010, an exhibition by South African artist, Senzeni Marasela, opened at the Axis Gallery in New York. Featuring various works in fabric, their iconographies centered on two individuals. The first was Sarah Baartman, a Khoekhoe woman known disparagingly as the “Hottentot Venus” who was exhibited in the United Kingdom and France in the early nineteenth century. The focus of pseudo-scientific interest for Europeans, her body was dissected and kept in the Musée de l’Homme before finally being repatriated to South Africa in 2002. The second was Theodorah Marasela, the artist’s mother. Moving from a rural area to Johannesburg in 1966, Theodorah’s likely alienation in a city where apartheid had impact on her mobility would have been compounded through her suffering from a form of bipolar schizophrenia. In this article, it is suggested that the artist does not represent Sarah Baartman and Theodorah Marasela as passive victims of their circumstances but instead with agency and capacity to articulate resistance. It is argued that the works’ feminist meanings are furthered through their taking the form of domestic objects such as doilies and runners, by being constituted from garments, or by including fabrics and needlework techniques that are themselves resonant with meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-75
Number of pages27
JournalTextile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Sarah Baartman
  • Senzeni Marasela
  • Theodorah in Johannesburg

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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