The Cache Sexe and the Tablier: Two Feminist Artworks from Apartheid South Africa

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Although feminism tended to be dismissed by liberation movements as a Western import with limited relevance to those oppressed by the apartheid state, a number of white women artists in South Africa began to find in it a framework for exploring links between sexism and racism, and for expressing their opposition to both. It is suggested in this article that an important factor for this developing interest was the growing impact of a postmodernist critique of representation and the recognition of its compatibility with feminism. Through an analysis of two feminist works incorporating “found” aprons of sorts, one by Kim Siebert and the other by Penny Siopis, it is revealed that parody proved a particularly useful strategy for enabling these commentaries and critiques. Siebert creates an analogy between Op Art paintings and the beadwork apron she includes in Reinforced Apron (1982–1984), a conjunction that suggests how the relative value accorded different categories of representation is informed by gendered and racialized hierarchies. The apron in Siopis’ Exhibit: Ex Africa (1990) parodies modes of display in ethnographic museums, invoking specific reference to the disturbing exhibition of casts of female genitalia that the artist had seen in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-427
Number of pages16
JournalTextile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017


  • Siebert
  • Siopis
  • South Africa
  • apron
  • feminst art
  • parody

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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