Born in 1977 in the Eat part of Johannesburg, South Africa, Senzeni Marasela lives and works in Soweto, South Africa. She’s a cross-disciplinary artist who explores photography, video, prints, and mixed-medium installations involving textiles and embroidery. Her work deals with history, memory, and personal narrative, emphasizing historical gaps and overlooked figures. She graduated from Wits University, Johannesburg, in 1998, with a BA degree in Fine Arts, and shortly thereafter completed a residency at the South African National Gallery, culminating in her work for the Gallery’s Fresh exhibition series. She also works in the video as well as performance and has been widely exhibited in South Africa, Europe, and the US.
Her work features in prominent local and international collections, including MoMA, New York. She was part of the Johannesburg Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. In her work, she translates memories of struggle and urbanization through the use of material culture and narratives, such as the use of the colour red which refers to cultural memories around the time of the “Red Dust” which refers to a period of drought in the early 1930s in South Africa. Her performances interweave these elements and multi-media works, making visible the dimension of every day through objects and clothes. She is known for her six-year performance work Ijermani Lam which “materialises the condition of waiting” by wearing the same red dress every day from the 1st of October 2013
to the 1st of October 2019. She also started the project in 2003 titled Theodorah comes to Johannesburg, a durational performance based on her mother Theodorah’s stories about travels from the rural area of Mvenyane to Johannesburg, a journey of 11 hours. Like many young black women in the city, her mother was traumatised by events that took place in apartheid South Africa during the 1960s. The artist has always felt that Theodorah’s story was representative of that of many black women in South Africa. The story of Theodorah never left Marasela’s work and has at times been combined with that of Sarah Baartman (who was ‘exhibited’ around nineteenth- century Europe as the ‘Hottentot Venus’) and of the artist herself. Marasela is interested in the multiplicity contained within the experience of waiting: in the pathologies of women who are either forced to wait or choose to wait.