Another important female artist is Noria Mabasa, who was creating sculptures at a time when it was difficult for black women to make art in South Africa. There is also Bongi Dhlomo-Mautloa, whose role and contribution as an artist, curator, and organiser is rarely acknowledged. She charted areas that were not common for black women under apartheid by being active as an art student, later practising art, and then becoming a curator, organiser, and juror.
In the 1990s, female artists started creating work that focused on issues of gender and of identity. This was more of an in-your-face feminist movement that saw the work of multi-disciplinary artists Berni Searle and Tracy Rose engage on subjects that include gender and politics.
“These artists primarily came from the Cape and were struggling with issues of identity — what it meant to be coloured in a contemporary South African context,” says Kingston. At the same time, artists Lisa Brice, Candice Breitz, Diane Victor, and Deborah Bell were also attracting interest.
These were some of the female artists who laid the foundations for the new generation of women who Kingston says are succeeding in shifting the cultural gaze.
Kingston says it is no accident that a lot of art produced by female artists is in the form of performance art. “This comes of out a political history. In the past, women were always painted by men and this meant that their bodies were perceived in a particular way,” she says. “As part of regaining their power, they decided they were going to use their bodies to express their pain, their joy, and their beauty — and everything in-between.”