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Contemplating ‘The Princess in the Veld’ | An Exhibition of Sculptures

The Princess in the Veld

Doreen Southwood, Suspension of disbelief


The Princess in the Veld showcases a selection of sculpture works produced by local, contemporary female artists and contemplates the position of women in our current South African dispensation. The exhibition hosts artworks by Frances Goodman, Doreen Southwood, Reshma Chhiba, Wilma Cruise, Karin Lijnes, Larita Engelbrecht and Hannalie Taute.


Despite South Africa’s democratically premised constitution and the passing of numerous revised bills advocating the rights of women, female emancipation remains unrealised: Highlighted by high crime statistics of rape and domestic violence and prejudice against women in the workplace and society at large. Although a far more proactive approach is needed in order to enact real change for women in South Africa, this exhibition aspires to raise awareness of, and stimulate discussion around, the plight of women.


Princess in the Veld (7)

Doreen Southwood, Suspension of disbelief


The ‘princess’, as part of the title, is employed as a thoroughly fabled, and somehow condescending, designation for women and underscores the relation between female identity and (gendered) space. The South African social landscape, still dominated by parochial views of women, is viewed as a space riddled with fallacies regarding femininity – a condition that merely serves to perpetuate the oppression of women. As an illustration of these literal and metaphoric spaces evident in society, fairy tales (narratives based on idealised and stereotypical notions of women) are utilised within the context of The Princess in the Veld as a curatorial slant to mirror these defunct views and abusive practices towards South African women. Fairy tales generally position female protagonists as extensions of particular (gendered) spaces within the narrative – private spaces, the domestic realm and nature) – spaces that are often shaped by (and upheld by) traditional roles assigned to women.


Princess in the Veld (17)

Frances Goodman, Vertigo (with orange)


Despite the signs of prejudice scripted within the pages of these tales, alternative readings could, adversely, offer opportunity for transformation: The conventional fairy tale plot leads the heroine (usually spurred on by curiosity or emotion) into unfamiliar (and often forbidden) territory – a space generally designated by the forest, or in the case of indigenous tales, the veld. The word ‘veld’, as part of the title of the exhibition, suggests uncultivated, leveled grasslands associated with the South African landscape, in particular, the Karoo. The curated space therefore acts as a metaphor for the veld, wherein positive accounts of heterogeneous and transformative female identity could be shaped, illuminated by the selection of artworks, expressive of an empowered sense of femininity. As part of a kind of ‘corrective’ curatorial approach and the desire to reconceptualise female identity, the veld is conceived of as a space that engenders freedom from the constraints persistent in society, and serves to revise perceptions regarding female identity.


Princess in the Veld (16)

Frances Goodman, Vertigo (with orange)


The fairy tale is then employed as a curatorial mechanism that, on the one hand, emphasises the pervasiveness of conventional and essentialised notions of femininity and, on the other, promotes the emancipation of women that exist within the interstices these binaries yield. The bodies of work of the artists selected for this ensemble allude to the underlying notions prevalent in fairy tales of European and African origin in order to align with the premise of the show.


The Princess in the Veld showed from 3-11 April at Prince Vincent Building in the Western Cape.


Princess in the Veld (4)

Princess in the Veld (3)

Reshma Chhiba, Urdhva-Yoni (Erect Yoni)


Princess in the Veld (5)

Reshma Chhiba, Linga-Yoni


Princess in the Veld (12)

Hannalie Taute, The world at her fingertip


Princess in the Veld (2)

Left: Larita Engelbrecht, Scar | Right: Larita Engelbrecht, Inside out


Princess in the Veld (1)

Larita Engelbrecht, Womb/Wound


Princess in the Veld (9)

Princess in the Veld (8)

Frances Goodman, Green with Envy


Princess in the Veld (11)

Princess in the Veld (10)

Frances Goodman, Black Beauty


Wilma Cruise, Between

Wilma Cruise, Between


Princess in the Veld (14)

Princess in the Veld (13)

Karin Lijnes, Red Head series


This article was written by Adéle Adendorff, with photographs by Hermann Venter.


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