I wanted to introduce the feministing community to one of the amazing artists that I had the honor of being in residency with while in Italy last month. Her name is Sharlene Khan–a young South African artist who wrestles with themes of identity, work, race, class, gender, community, and so much more in the many genres that she works in.
Her work, in her own words:
My work (which comprises of oil paintings, installations and mixed media drawings) hopes to bring to the fore this sector of society that is so sadly ignored, to depict the ‘humanness’ of these people we pass by daily – their dreams, hopes, struggles, wit and dignity. My work also combines oil painting and ink drawing to portray this ‘lower class’ society in what once was an upper class indulgence and to continue to question these attitudes towards the ‘fine arts’, by turning oil paintings into functional everyday objects e.g. clothes, bedspread, curtains, haircut salons. My work is a visual representation of my identity and all the influences upon it. Needlework in my paintings, as well as the depiction of Indian mehndi designs, biblical scriptures and poetry are meant to reflect my African, Indian, Chrisitan, female identity as well as my early apartheid education, and later tertiary education.
Khan describes her distaste with the word diaspora: “It chiefly recognises similarities at the expense of equally important localised differences. I don’t really consider myself as part of such a diaspora, I am a South African Indian who is very located in this specific country at this specific juncture in time. And while I realise that the sense of ‘Indianness’ is probably a valid one among many migrant communities, in South Africa it was promoted by the apartheid government to ensure that Indians in this country were made to feel like outsiders. Indians have been in SAfrica since the 1820′s.”
Her work is bold, controversial, deeply emotional, and truly original. A couple more examples are featured after the jump.