Mary Sibande.
Mary Sibande.
Image: Jodi Bieber

Art icon? Tracey Rose.

Essential potions? A friend calls me a “brand loyalist” — to Clinique especially. I follow their three steps: wash, tone, moisturise, then Moisture Surge in winter, then sunscreen. Once in a while I’ll do their mask too.

Favourite perfume? I received a goodie bag with Yves Saint Laurent’s Black Opium in it. I like to spritz the scent into the air, do a 360-degree turn in it and then bounce my shoulders to make it settle. That said, I’m a real DKNY Be Delicious devotee. Always have been, I never run out.

The building everyone should visit before they die? The Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali. It is the largest mud structure in the world and was first constructed in the 13th century. It requires constant upkeep and replastering. The size, style, and layout change over time but the basic technic and distinctive style remain linked to the original. There’s an annual replastering festival before the rainy season, where the entire town participates in the festivities around the renovation. It’s a celebration of their cultural inheritance, faith, and community and its existence is completely in their hands.

Essential gadget? My iPhone. I cannot go anywhere without it. It has become my diary, containing thoughts and ideas. It’s also a tool for travelling the whole world without the visa tussle.

Drink of choice? Water.

Top place to eat out? I love the salmon and chips from the Cnr Cafè, Craighall Park.

Item of clothing you bought, instantly loved, and still have in your wardrobe years later? An army jacket I bought in Edinburgh. It has so much character from wear and tear.

Dream purchase? I have my sights set on artworks by Johannes Phokela and Kerry James Marshall. Their subversive use of traditional picture-making methods is just what the doctor ordered.

Reading at the moment? Largely in preparation for my solo exhibition at Somerset House in London, during the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. It opens next month and is titled I Came Apart at the Seams. I’m inspired by, and so absorbing energy from, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth — specifically, the chapter “Concerning Violence”. I also recently acquired Geoffrey Girard and Thomas Lockley’s African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan. I watched the anime Afro Samurai a few years ago, and am really interested in the topic.

Young artist you’ve got your eye on? Performance and visual artist Helena Uambembe.

Ideal way to spend a Sunday morning? It used to be in bed or watching a documentary, but these days, mornings are filled with screams of “Mommy!” from my four-year-old son. We usually spend our Sundays outdoors, with me dishing out instructions like “Slowly” and “No!” — you can imagine the reception.

Johannesburg is the most inspirational. It’s energy is addictive and it is in constant flow. The diverse places and paces within it inspire creativity

Album you’d take to a desert island? My all-time favourite album is The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It’s a timeless piece of work that shaped the ideas of my youth. That album made sure Hill could do no wrong forever more.

Series you’re bingeing on? I’m slowly becoming a non-series watcher. But I recently finished watching American Gods.

Collector of anything? Erasers. Wherever I’ve been, it has become my little ritual to at least buy one eraser. The irony is that’s how I remember the places and countries I’ve visited.

What makes you happiest? When I have the luxury of time to take a long bath and, for my sins, a whole slab of dark chocolate.

Last travel destination that knocked your socks off? I was in New York in April and I revisited MoMA PS1. There, I re-experienced Pipilotti Rist’s Selfless in the Bath of Lava. You walk into a space and hear a woman screaming. The sound leads you to a peephole in the floor, comprised of a tiny video. In the video, the artist swims nude in lava and cries out, “I am a worm and you are a flower!” The work and its format blew my mind.

Dream dinner party guests? Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone, Thomas Sankara, Steve Biko, and Ambroise Boimbo. I’d want Biko to ask Boimbo what was going on in his head when he snatched the ceremonial sword off King Baudouin I of Belgium in what was then Léopoldville in 1960. The purpose of the conversation would be to encourage and coerce Biko to write a book loosely titled “Reclaiming of Power”. This would be reading material for reflecting on current issues, while sitting next to my favourite conceptual artist, Lawrence Lemaoana.

Grocery cart essential? I love cookies.

Great gift you were given recently? Flowers from my partner for our anniversary.

Favourite city in the world? Johannesburg is the most inspirational. It’s energy is addictive and it is in constant flow. The diverse places and paces within it inspire creativity. One notices its contradictions — like big bubbles containing lifestyles that are adjacent to and overlap with others.

Indulgence you would never forgo? Dark chocolate, usually expensive.

From the September edition of Wanted 2019.

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