What motivated Feminism in Art?

As said in Parker and Pollock’s reading, Painted Ladies, to be a great art master one had to be male as only males were given the necessary ‘tools’ of becoming one. Namely the academic skills as well as the power to have access. This essay aims to critique the ideological construct of Modern Art. It will make reference to the artwork Self portrait, 1906 by  Paula Modersohn-Becker,  as the artist attempts to redefine the female figure.

Modern Art has ideologies that were born long before ‘Modern Art’ was defined. During the Renaissance up until the nineteenth century, an artists success was defined by their skills in representing the human figure. Artists were taught to stay the female body. However women were not denied this privilege. The male access to the female body is form of power and control. Therefore males during this time had the ‘tools’ of being well trained as artists as well as having power and control over the female body and therefore were permitted to become great ‘masters’.

In Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Self Portrait of 1906, the artist tries to redefine the female figure. Previously the female figure had been one that males have access to, one that is ‘passive, available (…) frankly desirable and over sexualised'(Parker and Pollock). Although the title suggests that the painting is a portrait of the artist, she has failed to make it one the does not subject her as a woman. Due to the parallel that is established between woman and nature, the image is a depiction of a self possessed individual.

What also critiques against Modersohn-Becker’s self portrait is that she used Gauguin’s paintings as reference. Gaugin has a long history of being a man who used women as objects in his paintings and very much asserted his male and dominant power upon them, in real life and very blatantly in his paintings.

In conclusion, Paula Modersohn-Becker in her self portrait has tried to address the issue of the female body within Modern Art, saying that it needs to become one rid of passiveness and desire only. She has managed to question the patriarchal society and ideologies around being a female artist and what it means the be one. However in her artwork she has failed to achieve her aim.


Parker, R & Pollock, G. 1981. Painted ladies, in Old mistresses: women, art and ideology.London: Routlege & Kegan Paul:114-133 [Chapter 4].

Cover image – Zinaida Serebriakova’s Nude. Available from: http://www.webetc.info/art/Art-Folders/Russia/Serebriakova/serebriakova-nude.jpg


Oil Paint rough and textured in the new exhibit at Everard Read

Philippe Uzac and Deon Venter’s works strikes out to the viewer here in the Everard Read Gallery in Rosebank. Venter’s work pushes the viewer to stand back and see the paintings in perspective as most of them are over three meters large. While the bold colours of Uzac’s works draw the viewer into a different mood in each bold colour. While both artists attract one with their fantastic use in textures.

Title of Deon Venter’s  exhibition There is no Path/The Path is Made by Walking is printed in in large letters as one enters the room. Immediately one is lulled into the nude colours of his paintings and the abstractions of his use in texture.

Born in 1956, the South African artist Deon Venter now lives in Canada and exhibits around the world. His artistic career began after he graduated with a Fine Arts Diploma Hon from the Port Elizabeth School of Art and Design in South Africa.

His style is characterised by the bare grids that lie between the thick layers of oil paint. His larger than life paintings push the viewer to the opposite wall to be able to see the images, yet simultaneously pull them closer to view the details of the oil textures and grids of each painting.

His exhibition points out the detail of skin tones in his many nudes referencing the painting of Edouard Manet’s “Olympia” as he too named his paintings ‘Olympia’. His paintings come into being from highly charged historical events primarily the turing point of having painted Olympia in 1880. Venter explores the event seven of his eleven paintings while the other painting are a mashup of faces and landscapes.

However, the exhibition feels tiering and repetitive. Each painting is in a similar colour scheme and feeling as the one next to it. One is not drawn into every painting, it is as though Venter had to explore Manet’s Olympia in as many different canvases, not necessarily angles or situations as possible.

Deon Venter’s Olympia 4 (2016), on display at Everard Read Gallery’s ‘There is no Path/The Path is made by Walking’ exhibit

When walking into Philippe Uzac’s solo exhibition, ‘Laub’ a feeling of fun and stronger emotions occurs to the viewer as the paintings are bold and speak loudly. Each painting is almost a solid colour. The contrast between Uzac and Venter’s work is worlds apart in terms of atmosphere and intellectual feel.

Laub consists of eight large wooden panels each reveals the scratched away layers of oil paint, wax and chemicals. On first glance the paintings looks simple and easy to comprehend, yet on further inspection the detail of each one draws the viewer in so see how each layer has been worked on and scratched away. The collection of work give a feeling of warm and peaceful emotions, the longer one views them the more the feeling of nostalgia is felt.

It is clear that the artist has been inspired by the flat works of colour from Mark Rothko and Kasimir Malevich. Although each painting has a character of layers the overall canvas is set in one single colour. The process of Uzac’s paintings are visible as each layer of paint is pealed away to expose the underneath surfaces. His works are inspired by the textures around his studio in downtown Johannesburg. One can almost feel the old cement floors waxed patiently and unremittingly over the years, rusting industrial equipment abandoned in a forlorn wasteland or walls of old buildings stained and patched with layers of paper board teared off and hanging in the wind which inspired him.

Laub 16 faces the viewer as one enters into the room, it immediately draws one into a warm and comfortable space. The orange hues overlapping the greens and blues are finely woven with the odd harsher and larger scratch markings.  The exhibition of the work is done in such a seamless manner that one can almost overlook the details of the scratching, etching and rubbing of the paint.

Philippe Uzac’s Laub 16 (2016), on display at Everard Read Gallery ‘Laub’ exhibit

When exiting the main two exhibit rooms the gallery still holds many other artworks from previous exhibitions. For the regular visitors to the gallery one will reencounter many works, however each work is enchanting enough to capture ones attention again. The works include those of Walter Battis, Wane Barker and Guy du Toit amongst about 40 others.

Love for Speed…in Art

A Milanese poet, by the name of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was on a quest to portray the beauty of machinery and the modern age. Marinetti considered himself to be the most modern man in his country and at the time was considered to be a genius of publicity, by using every outlet of publicity to spread his ideas on Futurism.

Figure 1: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

For the Futurist art before theirs was to be abandoned and rejected as there needed to be space for the new art. Machinery for them was considered power and a freedom from their historical restraints in Italy. Futurists believed that the world was enriched by a new beauty – the beauty of speed, as said in their first manifesto. The artists were also highly influenced by the photos of Etienne Jeune Mariee, who managed to capture movement in a photograph, by presenting the sequences of movement next to each other.

Figure 2: Etienne Jeune Mariee’s chronophotographie. 

Boccioni was considered to be the most gifted of the 20th century Italian Futurists artists (Hughes 1980). Born in Italy in 1882 the artist joined Marinetti. His death was caused by the very thing he praised so much, war, in 1916. One of his famous paintings The City Rises challenges the ideas of machinery, space and movement. The human and animal figures are blurred suggesting them to be primitive and feeble, while the building structures are secure and strong, implying that they have more structure and reliability than the creatures.

Figure 3: Umberto Boccioni ‘The City Rises‘ 1910. 


Hughes, R. 1980. The Shock of the New – Ep 1 – The Mechanical Paradise. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3ne7Udaetg

Figure 1: Available from: https://media1.britannica.com/eb-media/58/68658-004-D896DE11.jpg

Figure 2: Available from https://perezartsplastiques.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/14.jpg

Figure 3: Available from: https://www.moma.org/collection_images/resized/355/w500h420/CRI_151355.jpg

Die Antwoord: Challenging White Afrikaans Identies


Die Antwoord, a South African rap-rave band that started in 2007 (and ends next year, with their album ‘Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid’) has a way of suggesting new white identities in South Africa through challenging the old discourses.

Figure 1: Ninja performing in South America 2015. At the back DJ Hi-Tech is visible wearing his infamous mask. 

White South Africans are tired about feeling guilty  about Apartheid and continuing material legacies. Through this tiredness emerges a need to recreate by overlapping, alongside and depending upon the young, Afrikaans, South African narratives and stereotypes to evolve into a new white South African culture. But artists such as Die Antwoord have used music to change their identity as music is a powerful tool to blur the lines of race, class and social constructs.

Figure 2: Jo-Landi challenging the ‘black and white’ stereotype in Die Antwoord’s video ‘Fatty Boom Boom‘. 

The transgression into democracy in 1994 implied defeat and failure for many Afrikaans with that many Afrikaans lost their right to state protection and were brought into poverty. These white people are now referred to as ‘trailer trash’ which is marginalised by race and class.

‘Trailer trash’ (seen predominantly in their video ‘I fink u freaky‘ as well as ‘Zef’ is what the Afrikaans rap (eg. Die Antwoord and Jack Parrow) industry has now made credible as well as being highly influenced by photographer Rodger Ballen. (The new) Zef is a way of breaking against the old afrikaans tradition and styles to make the common a glamorous experience.

Figure 3: Die Antwoord in their music video ‘I fink u freaky’. 

The idea is to create a platform for white identities to be negotiated. The negotiation is made easier by the fact that Die Antwoord’s characters are fictional, both are intended as personas to make new ethics. In their first viral video “Enter the Ninja” Ninja introduces himself and Yo-Landi Vi$$er as two personas that embody “zefness”. The characters and the zef style transverse the lines between racial and social boarders. Ninja is often associated with Cape Flat gangsters because of his tattoos while Yo-Landi is has her faux innocence and seductiveness blended with aggression, crudeness and her fascination with rats. The combination is fascinating and allows the viewer to identify something of themselves within them. Zefness is often associated with the pleasure, performing youth identities, and experimenting with sexuality that comes with music festivals. Music is a way of spreading ideas on a contemporary South Africa to young people.

Figure 4: Die Antwoord perming. Jo-Landi is wearing a dress with patterns inspired by Rodger Ballen, Ninja is wearing overalls inspired by the prison attire. 

To conclude, Die Antwoord  has created their own identity of being white and Afrikaans in South Africa post apartheid. Their personas have created a platform where these new identities are negotiated and explored. While the platform of music is utilised to spread the message to young South Africans. The message of the new identity is to create a space where Afrikaans people do not need to feel apartheid guilt and can become africans.

Sources Consulted 

Antwoord, Die. ‘‘Enter The Ninja (Official).’’ YouTube video (5:24). Posted by ‘‘stewartridgway,’’ January 14, 2010, http://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=wc3f4xU_FfQ (accessed October 15, 2016).

Antwoord, Die. ‘‘Zef Side (Official).’’ YouTube video (2:25). Posted by ‘‘stewartridgway,’’ January  14, 2010, http://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=Q77YBmtd2Rw&feature=player_ embedded (accessed October 16, 2016).

Antwoord, Die. ‘‘Rich Bitch,’’ from $0$, Interscope Records, 2009.

Antwoord, Die. ‘‘I Fink U Freeky (I Fink You Freeky),’’ from Ten$ion, 2012, ZEF Recordz. Video

directed by Roger Ballen, director of photography Melle Van Essen, and edited by Jannie Hondekom, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Uee_mcxvrw (accessed October 20, 2016).

Exclaim, 2016. Die Antwoord: the complete interview. [O] Available: http://exclaim.ca/music/article/

die_antwoord_the_complete_interview full_transcript_reveals_ninja_explicitly_declaring_the_end_of_the_band. Accessed on 25 October 2016.

Jardin, Xeni. Interview with Die Antwoord, Coachella festival (2010). Die Antwoord website, http:// dieantwoord.com/tension.html#videoz (accessed October 20, 2016).

Kruger, A, 2012. Part II: Zef/Poor White Kitsch Chique: Die Antwoord’s Comedy of Degradation. The Journal of South African and American Studies, 13:3-4. 

Marx, H and Milton, V, 2011. Bastardised whiteness: ‘zef’-culture, Die Antwoord and the reconfiguration of contemporary Afrikaans identities narrative? University of South Africa.

News24, 2011. ‘‘Interview with Die Antwoord,’’ http://www.news24.com/Multimedia/

Entertainment/Interview-with-Die-Antwoord-20110916 (accessed October 20, 2016).

O’Toole, 2012. Part I: Die Antwoord’s State of Exception. The Journal of South African and American Studies, 13:3-4.

Scott, C. 2012. Die Antwoord and a delegitimised South African whiteness: a potential counter-narrative. Unisa. Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 17:6.

Van de Watt, L, 2012. Part III: Ask no questions, hear no lies: Staying on Die Antwoord’s surface. The Journal of South African and American Studies, 13:3-4.

Zef-is-as-die-antwoord-does/. Antwoord, Die. ‘‘Enter the Ninja.’’ http://dieantwoord.com/ tension.html#videoz (accessed October 20, 2016).

Cover image: http://www.rogerballen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Shack-scene-2012.jpg

Figure 1: http://youredm.youredm1.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/die-antwoord.jpg?x98500

Figure 3: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/54b931c9e4b07e9224fabda9/54b935a8e4b0876afab116d4/5509d938e4b0e179c5ba37b4/1428333136159/?format=1000w

Figure 4: http://www.billboard.com/files/media/die-antwoord-performance-2015-billboard-1548.jpg

Subtle, Feel-good, Feminist video Artists


This essay will explore two artists who work within the medium of video. The artists being researched are Swiss Pipilotti Rist and Congolese Michele Magema. The research will include a brief history of the artists careers, an overview of the creative landscapes of which they belong as well as their processes. The essay will reference to stills taken from the videos to portray an overview of the works in progress. For Rist’s video this essay will explore her artwork Ever is Over All, 1997 and Magema’s Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcissie (e). 


History of Career – Rist 

Pipilotti Rist was born in 1962 in Grabs, Switzerland. She studied graphic design, illustration and photography at the Institute of Applied Arts in Vienna, as well as audiovisual communications and video at the School of Design in Basel. Rest began working as a graphic designer in Switzerland. She then gained a following in the mid-1980s as a member of the experimental post-punk pop group Les Reines Prochaines, for which she made some of her earliest video works. She now teaches at the University of California and Los Angeles.

She has had solo exhibitions in Spain, Denmark, New York, Geneva, Switzerland, Chicago amongst many other countries. Her group exhibitions include being in the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, Venice, Spain and many other counties and Art Museums too. Rest currently lives in Los Angeles, America and Zurich, Switzerland.(Electronic Arts Intermix )

History of Career – Magema 

Magema was born 1977, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Magema’s work exists within a matter space of a frontier of France and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her parents provided her with the authorization to interrogate her own history and that of a nation, her place of birth, as well as the continent of Africa at large. In 1984 she immigrated to Paris and currently still resides there. In 2002 she received her BA in fine arts from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Clergy (Signs).

She has been a resident artist at Cité Internationale des Arts and has exhibited her work in the Global Feminisms Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and at the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. She has also participated in the Africa Remix exhibition.

Creative landscape – Rist 

Rest has created a series of videos that are music-based, however they subvert the form of the music video to explore the female voice and body in pop cultural representations. The videos merge rock music and performance with electronic manipulation.

Pipilotti Rist explores the themes of female sexuality and media culture through playful and provocative fantasies in the everyday. She pinpoints popular cultures investment of desire within the everyday. Her main theme, fantasy is seen through a dream-like scene and then always brought to reality by ironic humour. Her work has impact and ambiguity because of her use of voyeuristic pleasure and the reminder of the real world.

Figure 1: Still from Rist’s Ever is Over All. The flower the girl holds easily replicates the shape of a knobkerry/weapon (The Art Desk).

In her artwork, Ever is Over All the video envelops the viewers in two slow-motion projections on adjacent walls. In one a roving camera focuses on red flowers in a field of lush vegetation (MoMa). One the left projection, a woman in a blue dress and ruby slippers strolls down a car-lined street. The fluidity of both scenes is disrupted when the woman violently smashes a row of car windshields with the long-stemmed flower she carries. As the vandal gains momentum with each gleeful strike of her wand, a police officer approaches and smiles in approval, introducing comic tension into this scene.

In the video Rist positively describes negative aspects about femininity. The video has since been appropriated by Beyonce in her lated album Lemonade.The flower reveals the overall shape of the phallic, therefore the ideology of the flower combines femininity and flower-power into an overall feel good video.

Figure 2: Still from Rist’s Ever is Over All. The police gives an encouraging smile and acneoweldgement and walks on, instead of arresting the vandaliser(Fact).

In the video Rist positively describes negative aspects about femininity. The video has since been appropriated by Beyonce in her lated album Lemonade.The flower reveals the overall shape of the phallic, therefore the ideology of the flower combines femininity and flower-power into an overall feel good video.

Figure 3: Still from Rist’s Ever is Over All.  This still shows a better view of the phalic shapes within the flowers (Art Orbit).

Creative landscape – Magema

Michèle Magema draws from her experience as a child exiled from her homeland. Today, as she develops her art, Magema examines the history of her people and Congo. Slavery, genocide and internal wars are also a major focus in her work. She explores the themes of her feminine identity displaced through time, memory, and history, reflects an image of a woman with a new identity – one that is totally detached from exoticism. In her video, the text refers to the the myth of Narcissus and Echo a tale of unrequited love and eternal punishment. ‘We shall seek to ascertain the directions of this dual narcissism and the motivations that inspire it’. (Fanon, English translation, 1967: 9-10).

Figure 4: Still from Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcisse(e). Magema is seen on a split screen observing white (colonial) faces on the walls of Paris(Vemo).
Figure 5: Still from  Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcisse(e). Magema is seen on a split screen with a mask over her face and on the other screen walking way into the tunnel she came from.
Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 5.50.13 PM.png
Figure 6: Still from Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcisse(e). Magema is seen on a split screen kissing the face of the white (colonial) masks in Paris.

 Creative Process – Rist 

Rest says she enjoys video as she works with other professions, such as editors and filming crew to make the artwork, she also enjoys filming and making videos just by herself too. However, usually there are eight people involved in the video.  She says that there is an experimental element to each work and she enjoys being able to use each of the equipment by herself too, so that there is an element of herself in each process of the artwork too.

The audio in Rist’s work is often a simple soundtrack of music. She is also a member in a band, Les Reines Prochaines and can therefore create her own music.

Creative Process – Magema 

Magema makes use of the split screen in many of her videos. As the material of her works are always simple. She uses historical facts that she interprets through the prediction of scenes. Through these frontal images she exposes her body to use it as a metaphor for the relationship between the human being and the world at large. Her work sets up a direct relationship that centered on the world the field of society and politics.

Magema enjoys working on her artworks alone. Often she is the only character in each video and the videos are usually static, meaning that she can leave the camera on a tripod.

The audio in Magma’s video is of classical piano.


This essay has successfully explored the two artists, Pipilotti Rist and Michele Magema. Each artist has given a brief history of their career, Rist was born in Switzerland and currently works there and in Los Angeles, while Magema was born in Congo and now works and lives in Paris. Both artists have studied art and art currently still making works that exhibit all around the world. Both Rist and Magema are interested in the themes of femininity. While Rist explores a fun and humorous side to her videos, Magema has slow and simple shots of repetitive movements. Their processes differ, Rist enjoys working with a crew, while Magema works on all her artworks alone.

4. Reference list

African Digital Art, 2016. The Video Art of Michele Magema. [Online]. Available from – http://africandigitalart.com/2016/01/the-video-artwork-of-michele-magema/. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Art Rador, 2014. 10 African Video Artists to know Now. [Online] Available from – http://artradarjournal.com/2014/03/01/10-african-video-artists-to-know-now/. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Electronic Arts Intermix ,2016, Pippilotti Rust,  535 West 22nd Street, 5th Flr New York, NY 10011, Available from – http://www.eai.org/artistBio.htm?id=8817 %5BAccessed on 16 August 2016]
MoMa, 2016. Pipilotti Rist Ever is Over All, 1997. [Online] Available from – http://www.moma.org/collection/works/81191. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Signs, 2005. Michele Magema – Goodbye Rosa. [Online] Available from – http://signsjournal.org/michele-magema-goodbye-rosa-2005-2005/. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Youtube, 2016. Hold up – Beyonce vs Pipilotti Rist. [Online] Available from – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z3X-zs1vu0. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Youtube, 2011. Pipilotti Rist on her working methods. [Online] Available from – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br1C5ONEt_c. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Figure 1: The Art Desk, 2011. Pipilotti Rist, The Eyeball Massage, Hayward Gallery. [Online] Available from – http://www.theartsdesk.com/visual-arts/pipilotti-rist-eyeball-massage-hayward-gallery. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Figure 2: Fact, 2016. Ever is Over All. [Online] Available from – http://www.fact.co.uk/projects/pipilotti-rist/ever-is-over-all.aspx. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].


Figure 3: Art Orbit, 2012. Pipilotti Rist; Overrated underpants? [Online] Available from – https://artorbit.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/pipilotti-rist/. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

Figure 4: Vemo, 2012. Michele Magema. [Online] Available from – https://vimeo.com/magema. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

Figure 5: Galeri Seroleon, 2015. Michele Magema. [Online] Available from – http://galeriasaroleon.com/artista/michèle-magema. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

Figure 6: Vemo, 2012. Michele Magema. [Online] Available from – https://vimeo.com/magema. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].


‘Orphan Black’ and the female body


The female body, a maternal pillar, one that has been documented for over thousands over years and more recently in visual culture too. This essay seeks to discuss, critique and contest the female body with regard to feminism theory. This essay will critically analyse and discuss the TV series Orphan Black  and comment on the recurring theme of the maternal body therein. Orphan Black is a tv series that began in 2011 and is beginning to show its fourth season. The essay will also make reference of the article Mom’s with Guns; Woman’s Political Agency in Anti-Apartheid Visual Culture by Kim Miller (2009), Shelia De Rosa’s article Mother, dear Mother, 2004, J Wingate’s article,  Motherhood, Memorials and Anti- Militarism (2008)

This essay will cover themes such as fertility and the use of the female body to give life as well as the maternal body as a soldier, being able to carry a gun in order to protect her family, the mother being the sole caretaker of her children. The aim of the essay is to discover weather the feminist theories are in favour of the depiction of the maternal body in visual culture, or wether they are fought against.


To understand the theme of the essay, one first needs to define what a maternal body is and how it fits into feminist theory. Feminist theory firstly, is said to explore gender inequality and gender itself.  The maternal body is more specific as it then focuses of the female, concerning, conniving a child, giving birth, the ability to become a mother as well as the ability to grow and develop with the infant that is her child. This theme is touched on in  visual media and throughout time, however in this television series it is a very evident theme.

A brief overview of the tv series is given, in order to understand where and in what time frame the series was created. Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction series that is set in Toronto, Ontario about a woman called Sarah Manning, played by Tatiana Maslayn and directed by John Fawcette. In the first season, Sarah discovers that she is a clone and has over twelve identical ‘sisters’ all over North America and Europe. However of those clones, she is the only one who can conceive a child, she has a daughter, Kira Manning. There is a great emphasis on finding her ‘defect’ as all the other clones were designed not to reproduce. All the main characters, except one (Felix Dawkins, who is gay), are strong and distinctive females, who are all fighting for the good of their protection and sadly of their family.

As Miller (2009) says in her reading on Mom’s with Guns women in the Anti- Apartheid South Africa are meant to be seen as soldiers. Women have substantial muscles that are visibly taut, demonstrating great physical power. The “good mother” is active and empowered, focused pri- marily not on her child, but on a larger political goal. In one hand she holds a gun, ready to fire, while on her back sleeps her child.

This characteristic of being fit, strong and able to physically protect her children is evident in the character of Sarah Manning too. Sarah is seen doing parkour, while her sisters are also staying fit and strong doing their own exercises such as gaming (Aliosn), and bench press ups and sit ups (Helaina). Each character focuses not on keeping in shape, but on being physically strong enough to be able to fight, if they need to, especially when needing to protect their family.

Figure 1: Alison about to open the door to her house. Image available from locker dome.com

The characteristic of the mother with a gun is often seen. More prominent in Sarah’s won mother, Siobhon, who almost always greets her visitors with a gun before letting them into her house, where she protects her granddaughter. When Sarah first learns that she is a clone, her instinct is to protect herself, as did her sisters. Her clone sister Alison teachers her how to shoot, and says that her own reason for learning how to become a professional shooter is ‘to protect my family’.

Sarah is also seen posed with a gun ready to fire, in season 1, episode 5, when she has to keep the scientists away from her daughter.

As Annelise Orleck notes, “[F]or many women in cultures around the world, motherhood is a powerful political identity around which they have galvanized broad-based and in uential grassroots movements for social change” (Orleck 1997:7). The idea that mothers need to stand together and behind a gun to protect their children, often in the absence of husbands, is one that connects women around the world. In South Africa particularly where a large amount of women are single mothers and raise their children with their own mothers, there is often an absence in the father figure in the children’s childhood. The same can be said for Sarah Manning, who is a single mother raising her child with her mother, Siobhon, who was also a single mother. Mother-activism can reinforce patriarchal appeals to women’s maternity (as actual or potential mothers) as the primary basis for their worth (Miller).

The beginning of this protective mother emerged in the second World War, when artists such as Bashka Paeff, created her sculpture The Maine Sailors and Soldiers Memorial, seen in Fig.2, as read about in Jennier Wingate’s reading Motherhood, Memorials and Anti-Militarism (2008). The sculpture depicts a strong and masculine mother shielding her small child from the revenges of war around her.

Figure 2: The Maine Sailors and Solders Memorial. Bashka Paeff, 1926. 

The sculpture was one of the first to acknowledge the hardships of a mother, firstly by allowing the child to go to war and believing that it would be for the better good of her country and the next is that maternal body becomes a figure of protection and a physically strong being. Although, contemporary reviews regarded her work to be more of a success story as she was a woman sculpture during the 1920’s and not as radical political advancements. Reviews about her work were often accompanied by a ‘rags to riches’ bibliography of her life, although they were not necessarily true.

When watching Orphan Black one can see that the fear of portraying a mother as a fighter and protector in the war too has disappeared and evolved into one of the main themes in the series. One particular moment is in season two, episode 3 when Sarah as well as Siobhan are armed and out in the streets protecting Kira.

Another point that feminist theory comments on is how motherhood has been reduced to a ‘battleground in which growing numbers of women choose to conceive and rear their children without men’, according to Shelia de Rosa in her article Mother, dear Mother (2004). While women have suddenly been able to obtain career positions that are decision making positions and therefore also an economic value, women are still expected to raise the children, as they have done for thousands of years. De Rosa says that as third wave feminists, women should embrace their new opportunities and take advantage of the new freedom to climb the financial ladder to achieve a ceo position. Meaning that the maternal life should not be separated from the career life.

Figure 3: Sarah dropping Kira off at school. Image available from projectfandom.com

When looking specifically at Sarah Manning’s character, she is unable to be the maternal mother as well as the working mother because she gave her daughter to her mother, Siobhan to look after while she went to do freelance work as a designer. Her sister, Alison defies de Rosa’s ideology and is a stay-at-home-mom, also often called a ‘soccer mom’, as seen in Fig.3. While Siobhan remains the only mother who raised her children and worked as an undercover detective.

Figure 4: Alison as ‘stay-at-home-soccer-mom’. Image available from hypable.com

What can also be read of de Rosa’s reading is that women are no longer needing a man to even conceive a child. In recent medical advancements it is possible to conceive a child without the female or male body ever interacting. This of course is the main theme in Orphan Black as it deals with clones that have been created in test-tubes. All of the clones are science experiments, which is where the moral issues of the institutes come in, saying that the clones belong to the institute and therefore have to be controlled as observed as a proper experiment. All the clones do all have a ‘monitor’ someone who gives daily reports to the institute to record their activities, usually the monitor is also a spouse or boyfriend.


In the series Orphan Black feminist topics such as the mother as a protector, a single mother and a working mother as seen. The female body as a soldier and protector as Miller describes mothers of the modern world to be is evident in characters such as Sarah Manning, Alison Hendrix and Siobhan Sadler. All three women are seen as physically strong, as well as being able to pull a gun in a situation when needing to. This advancement in the depiction of motherhood began with feminists sculptures in the 1920’s. The single mother that De Rose mentions in her article is Sarah Manning who raises her child with the help of Siobhan. de Rosa, comment that women are living in a battleground of trying to raise their children without men, firstly financially and then physically without the presence of the father or even his conception. Finally, after analysing Orphan Black I feel that this series might be the most feminist series there is out there as every power decision, even within the institute is lead by a woman. Not just any woman, but a clone, a child born out of a test-tube. All the female characters are seen as fiercely independent and protective of their family and clone family. All women are never seen in need of a man to help them out, there are smaller characters given to the men but all the main characters as well as power characters are lead by mothers.


Brooklyn Museum. (2011, 27 December) What is Feminist Art? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QbdobcKNhM. [Accessed on 7 May 2016].

De Rosa, S. (2004). Mother, dear Mother. Journal of Visual Art Practice. 3 (2), p83-89.

Orleck, Annelise. 1997. “Tradition Unbound: Radical Mothers in International Perspective” In  e Politics of Motherhood: Activist Voices from Le  to Right, eds. Alexis Jetter, Annelise Orleck, Diana Taylor, pp. 3–23. Hanover NH: University Press of New England.

Miller, K. 2009. African Arts. Mom’s with Guns; Woman’s Political Agency in Anti-Apartheid Visual Culture. 68-75

UCL Arts and Humanities, Social and Historical Sciences. (2015, March 10) . UCL History of Art: Griselda Pollock – Making Feminist Memories – Part 1. [Video file]. Retrieved from – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhCLvdZPy1o. [Accessed on 7 May 2016].

Wingate, J. (2008). Motherhood, Memorials and Anti- Militarism.Woman’s Art Journal. unknown (1), p31- 38.

Feature image: Vignette. Orphan Black. [Online]. Available from http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/orphanblack/images/b/b1/OrphanBlack2x10HelenaKiraAlisonCosima.jpeg/revision/latest?cb=20140809025905. [Accessed on 14/06/2016].

Figure 1: LockerDome. Orphan Black, Seanson 4 Trailer. [Online]. Available from – https://lockerdome.com/tvovermind/8486966341795860. [Accessed on 7/05/2016].

Figure 2: Wingate, J. (2008). Motherhood, Memorials and Anti- Militarism.Woman’s Art Journal. unknown (1), p31- 38.

Figure 3: Project Fandom. Orphan Black S1E4 – Instinct. [Online]. Available from – http://projectfandom.com/orphan-black-s1e2-instinct/. [Accessed on 7/5/2016].

Figure 4: Hypable. Nine things you don’t know about Orphan Black. [Online]. Available from – http://www.hypable.com/orphan-black-talks-to-hypable/. [Accessed on 7/05/2016].


Social Media saves the Environmental Issues (a little bit)


This blog will discuss how digital tools (blogging and social media), visual research methods (photo- elicitation) and photo essays can be used to generate and disseminate an awareness and understanding of environmental concerns. It will make reference to Carew, J’s reading .Online environmental activism in South Africa: a case study of the #IAM4RHINOS Twitter Campaign, which comments on the use of twitter as well as the power of the hashtag that was used during 2013 for the rhino campaign. The blog will also use Pauwels, L’s reading Conceptualising the ‘Visual Essay’ as a way of generating and imparting sociological insight: issues, formats and realisations, Pauwels, L’s other reading on ‘Participatory’ visual research revisited: a critical-constructive assessment of epistemological, methodological and social activist tenets and Thaler, AD et al’s reading Digital environmentalism: tools and strategies for the evolving online ecosystem, in Environmental leadership: A reference handbook, with sort reference to Tinkler, P’s reading Using photographs in social and historical research.

The blog will discuss the basics on creating an account for a specific purpose, how to get as much attention about it as it can, specific terms that are used in the cyber world, the emotional connection people make towards the cause, visual stimuli in photographs and in art,


Basics on twitter 

Twitter is a blogging space that allows for a user (persional, business, politicians or brands) to say what they need to in 140 characters, this allows for precise and direct communication towards thousands of people. The introduction of environmental issues in social media, opens up a wide range of new followers, the target audience broadens and suddenly more normal people who are not necessarily in the field are exposed to the issues (Carew, 2014). Subsequently mass media has been forced to adopt social networks such as twitter to engage with audience members. Campaigns form to raise awareness, especially in emergency cases, such as the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings in 2011. These campaigns call on users to show their support for a cause by donating money, sharing content or posting a tweet featuring a specific hashtag. Environmental movements are increasingly using social networks as platforms to recruit members, to promote their causes, to facilitate fundraising efforts and manage campaign activities (Carew, 2014).

Important people re-tweeting

Many of the campaign supporters mentioned prominent celebrities in their tweets, petitioning them to get involved in the cause. It must be noted that influence is often associated with a person’s level of interest in, or a vast amount of knowledge about, a topic.

Using Images and art as stimuli 

The technique whereby images are used as a stimulus in the context of an interview was originally applied in psychological research. It was subsequently adopted by a number of social scientists and is now primarily known as ‘photo-elicitation’, though in fact many types of images can be used (still and moving, paintings or drawings, etc.), and thus ‘image-elicitation’ or ‘visual elicitation’ would be a more appropriate term. The visual materials used as ‘stimuli’ to obtain unique kinds of information from respondents and informants may include pre-existing ‘societal imagery’ (historic or archive pictures of cities, advertisements, etc.), as well as researcher- or respondent-generated materials (Pauwels, 2013). Pauwels also says that having images make the interview more productive, saying that the interview is no loner interested because of limited stimuli.

Another approach to visual/photo based stimuli is to have artwork based stimuli. The essay is now considered a visual/photo essay. History of the visual essay can date back to the 1940’s with the beginning of glossy magazines. Today the visual essay has found its place in art and educational spheres as well as on social media platforms and in mass media and in activist forms (Pauwels, 2011).

Emotional stimuli  


It is important to briefly highlight the emotional appeals that formed part of the initiative. Emotional citizenship is a commitment to and sense of responsibility toward one’s community, and it is these emotions that drive individuals to act. Describing emotions as ’social relationships,’highlights how an emotion like anger represents a relationship between the angry person and a provocateur.


Cyber terms 

Another term that arises through social media is ‘slaktivisim‘. ‘Slacktivism’ is a combination of the words ‘slacker’ and ‘activism,’ which sees an individual showing support for an issue with little to no tangible result other than to allow the person to feel good about having contributed in some way . This type of support requires little more than the click of a button and very seldom has any real impact according to research from the University of British Columbia, which found that wearing a cause-specific bracelet or ribbon, liking a page on Facebook, retweeting a hashtag or signing a web-based petition rarely served as a precursor to actual social action (Carew, 2014).

Online activism – also known as cyberactivism, digital activism and electronic advocacy – involves the use of the Internet and mobile communication tools to organise and facilitate protest efforts and to garner support for a cause or movement. This new breed of activism, enabled by modern technology, is a source of public discourse directly linked to changes in how citizens respond to powerful figures in society.


Although one may expect that the backing of these famous faces would generate the most interest around the cause, it was actually the support of a handful of passionate Twitter users who had the most influence, generating sizable amounts of traffic around the hashtag. In fact, it was the efforts of a small group of Twitter users that indirectly contributed to a significant amount of the hype generated around the rhino conservation conversation, showcasing that influence can be gained spontaneously.

Reference list

Carew, J. 2014. Online environmental activism in South Africa: a case study of the #IAM4RHINOS Twitter Campaign. Global Media Journal. African Edition 8(2):207- 230.

Pauwels, L. 2012. Conceptualising the ‘Visual Essay’ as a way of generating and imparting sociological insight: issues, formats and realisations. Sociological Research Online 17(1):[sp].

Pauwels, L. 2015. ‘Participatory’ visual research revisited: a critical-constructive assessment of epistemological, methodological and social activist tenets. Ethnography 16(1):95–117

Thaler, AD et al. 2012. Digital environmentalism: tools and strategies for the evolving online ecosystem, in Environmental leadership: A reference handbook, edited by D Gallagher. London: SAGE.

Tinkler, P. 2013. Using photographs in social and historical research. London: SAGE.