Textual Textiles: Gender and Political Parodies in the Work of Lawrence Lemaoana

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Lawrence Lemaoana is a male artist working with cloth and embroidery, using feminist tactics to interrogate contemporary masculinities. In his exhibition, Fortune Telling in Black, White and Red (2008), he humorously employs floral printed cloth “cutouts” of a dancing Jacob Zuma in such a way as to subvert what he considers an outdated construct of masculinity personified by Zuma and ratified within a patriarchally inclined South Africa. He also uses the historically complex Kanga cloth to create parodies of newspaper headlines and posters. The pithy statements in these works question the propagandistic role of the media in supporting certain mechanisms of power and gender politics in South Africa. The 2008 exhibition coincided with Thabo Mbeki’s recall and the beginning of Zuma’s rise to power, which made it particularly relevant at the time. In the light of recent developments surrounding the controversial status of Zuma, it is contended that the critique of both politics and hegemonic masculinity in these artworks might be more pertinent now than when they were originally exhibited. In this article, it is revealed that Lemaoana’s parodies might function as an insightful commentary on the current political state of South Africa and the sense of masculine entitlement that underpins South African men in positions of power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-460
Number of pages19
JournalTextile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017


  • Jacob Zuma
  • Kanga cloths
  • Lawrence Lemaoana
  • masculinity
  • traditionalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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