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Mary Sibande Explores Issues of Race, Gender, and Labour Through her Artistic Alter Ego, “Sophie”

Updated: Jul 10, 2022

Mary Sibande

Mary Sibande is a South African artist, born in Barberton and based in Johannesburg who is famous for using sculpture and photography to create images of her alter ego, “Sophie”.

Sibande, who was raised by her grandmother, draws inspiration from her own childhood in South Africa. The artist's focus on "the maid" is sometimes considered as a tribute to her family, which included four generations of domestic workers.

Mary Sibande alter ego, "Sophie"

Sophie, a life-sized fiberglass sculpture is modeled after Sibande’s body and face. She is often dressed in historical attire by the artist, which initially took the form of a maid's uniform before developing into more ornate outfits.

For Sibande, the site where this history is challenged and where her imaginations might come to life is the body of the sculpture, and notably how she dresses it. She frequently employs the alias "Sophie" in her work, whose appearance served as a platform for the creation of a counter-history.