The chimera, primarily a monstrous, threatening archetype, pervades Minette Vári’s work. Insofar as she associates herself with the chimera, Baubo, part of a series of works on paper called, Apotrope (Life of Baubo), Vári introduces the viewer to what has become an ongoing exploration of unconventional female figures – from deities to tricksters – that challenge the patriarchal assumptions of many mythological and religious narratives in her own work. The most provocative arguably, Baubo, an elderly woman in Greek mythology and later a cult divinity whose naked ribaldry is both a kind of comic relief and an expression of proto-feminist liberation.
Baubo’s body is formed merely of a head, a pair of legs and an exposed vulva, quite evident in the present lot. In Greek mythology, Baubo is the crone who rescues the goddess Demeter from her state of grief and depression after losing her daughter, Persephone, to Hades. Baubo gains Demeter’s attention and gets her to smile by her use of jesting commends and, in a more radical gesture, by lifting up her skirt to amuse Demeter. The images in the series reflect the different states personified by the goddess: screaming, guffawing or with a slight smile on her face visible in the present lot. These images attest to the abject female body.
Vári further considers the ways women have been cast in societies through the ages: as agents of wisdom, innocence, corruption, vacuity, hysteria, threat; as the spinster, the gossip, the whore, succubus, waif, siren, muse, maiden, mother, crone and so on.
1. Fabiana Lopes 2016 In transition: Remastering a vocabulary of ambiguity and polysemy. In: Of darkness and of Light: Minette Vári. Standard Bank Gallery
Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, Of Darkness and of Light, 29 January to 26 March 2016
Tracy Murinik. (ed) (2006) Of Darkness and of Light: Minnetter Vári. Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg. Illustrated in colour on Page 84.