Zeitz MOCAA Benefit Auction

Live Virtual Auction, 11 February 2024

Zeitz MOCAA 2024 Gala Benefit Auction

Sold for

ZAR 190 000
Lot 6
  • Senzeni Marasela; Failing 11
  • Senzeni Marasela; Failing 11

Lot Estimate
ZAR 150 000 - 200 000
Selling Price
ZAR 190 000

About this Item

South African 1977-
Failing 11

accompanied by an artist's certificate of authenticity signed, dated 2024, inscribed with the artist's name, the title, dated 2017-ongoing and medium

red wool on shawl
height: 246,5cm; width: 150cm; depth: 12cm, unframed


Kindly donated by the artist.

The inaugural winner of the K21 Global Art Award in 2023, Senzeni Marasela is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with performance, photography, drawings, prints and mixed-media installations of textile and embroidery. Her work has been included in various group exhibitions including the South African Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale; I am…Contemporary Women Artists of Africa, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC; and Witness: Afro Perspectives from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, Miami.

In a nearly two-decades-long durational performance as the fictional alter-ego Theodorah Mthetyane, Marasela wore red shweshwe dresses and woolen ityali (blankets). Theodorah perpetually awaits her husband Gebane who has gone to seek work in Johannesburg, leaving her behind in the rural Eastern Cape. This all-too-familiar South African migration narrative was at the centre of Marasela’s first ever museum exhibition, a long overdue 2020 retrospective at Zeitz MOCAA. Titled Waiting for Gebane, the show presented her multidisciplinary practice, encompassing photography, video, drawing, collage, sculpture, installation, and embroidery. Her work deals with history, memory, and personal narrative, emphasising historical gaps and the overlooked figures of women.

When the blankets became too hot and heavy to wear, Marasela repurposed their vivid yarn to make the Failing series. Red, the artist’s signature colour, signifies the clouds of dry red dust kicked up by men’s feet and horses’ hooves. This movement symbolized the countless Black rural lives disrupted by forced and voluntary migrations. The colour also recalls the red slag heaps of mining centres like Johannesburg, a quintessential feature of the colonial landscape that fills the air with toxic dust. The weight of the blankets on the body reflects the burden carried by wives who have lost their husbands to the apartheid labour system. The title of this series alludes to the historical and ongoing failure of the mining industry to provide economic prosperity for its workers and their families while poisoning their bodies. The soft textiles connote a cruel comfort, speaking to the limited possibilities for Black life under oppressive capitalistic regimes.

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