Long Read | Regarding Lady Skollie’s ‘Bound’

December 18, 2020 - DANIELLE BOWLER | NEW FRAME

When poet and scholar Gabeba Baderoon was a graduate assistant at the University of Cape Town in 1988, there was a conference on Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. As she looked at the programme, her gaze paused, fixing its attention on the cover image. It was something “meant to be glanced at briefly before one went into the substance of the programme”. But she looked intently, instead, and saw that it was a “picturesque image of an enslaved figure”, caught in a “play of visibility and invisibility”. 

As she recalls this memory in her book Regarding Muslims: From Slavery to Postapartheid – a work that creatively thinks seriously about the image of Muslims in popular culture – she writes about how “such figures elude recognition even when they are in direct view”. She names this “ambiguous visibility”. This term speaks to ways of seeing that have been shaped by oppressive power structures so normalised that we cannot even truly see what we are looking at.

The artist Lady Skollie’s recent exhibition at the Everard Read Gallery in Cape Town works in this mode of visibility – with skill and dexterity and on many frequencies. Her art is defined by a complex meeting point of history, popular culture, indigeneity, violence, sex and sexuality. It asks us to look again and again and again…


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