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Photography by Charles Benton

Artist Dineo Seshee Bopape on Soil, Self and Sovereignty

Artist Dineo Seshee Bopape recently had her first solo exhibition in the United States. The installation commissioned by Art in General titled sa ____ ke lerole, (sa lerole ke ___), examines gender, and the politics of place, memory and self embedded within land.

This installation is characteristic of how she webs together natural elements with man-made objects. Large masses of compacted soil were displayed in different parts of the gallery. On their surfaces were indentations and holes filled with shells, stones and gold, alluding to games such as Morabaraba and Diketo. The holes referenced voids, disruption in continuity and spaces to be filled. Rose petals, a candle, sage, clumps of clay with impressions of her hands, wool, charcoal and feathers were distributed across the surface of the soil. These masses of soil were displayed alongside projections of her hands holding and squeezing clay. This brings to mind earth as a source from which we extract materials, as well as its spiritual and cultural aspects. Her squeezing and molding clay highlights a key theme in her work; her concern with sovereignty both for the self and land. The actions she performs with her hands make flesh of ideas on land ownership and reclamation. Linked to this is her concern with the land as a container of memories and histories.

Dineo made reference to the female body and the self throughout the exhibition. The potency of this connection is clear considering how the female body and land are both hosts to life, and have both suffered the pains of extraction.

Her use of clay is significant in that it can be molded into any form. However, once hardened it can crumble and become dust. This goes back to the title of installation, sa ____ ke lerole, (sa lerole ke ___) translated to that which is of ___is dust, (that which is of dust is____).

Dineo Bopape 1


Dineo Bopape 3


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