I write (stitch) what I like: Senzeni Marasela

14 March - 12 May 2024
Bode is pleased to present I write (stitch) what I like, a solo exhibition of Senzeni Marasela, a multidisciplinary artist investigating the questions of memory, place and loss, capturing fragility and softness of women, as well as dealing with personal narratives and historical gaps. The exhibition is the artist’s first European gallery solo show. 
Since over twenty years Marasela has been documenting the story of Theodorah, a figure that represents both her mother and an alter ego of herself. Like many women, her mother was traumatized by events that took place in South Africa during the apartheid era, when millions of black Africans were removed from their homes and forced into segregated neighbourhoods. Due to these mass evictions many women had ‘lost’ their husbands and were waiting for their return.Working with literature and archives, which have suffered state censorship up until recently, Marasela tries to reconstruct and fill these historical gaps. The artist is particularly interested in the acts of waiting and replacement. She studies the pathologies of women who were forced to wait, and translates it into an affecting visual language charged with political and historical gravity. Her Theodorah can be found within the variety of mediums: photographs, installations, textile and embroidery works. Sometimes Theodorah leaves the two-dimensional sphere, turning into the artist’s performance, and starts physically exploring the world in search of her husband, just like many other women in South Africa during this tragical period of drama and  loss.
Theodorah is always accompanied by red color, which is central to the exhibition, as well as to the entire body of work of the artist, having a number of connotations. At first it serves as a reference to the traditional African shweshwe fabric, which originates from colonial times and has been later adopted by Xhosa culture for everyday clothes. Besides, there is a personal story behind the color choice. Red goes back to the 1960es when Marasela’s father was born. At that time the continent was suffering from the "Red Dust" – a period of drought. The artist remembers, that this red dust was everywhere – on the streets and in the house – becoming an integral part of people's everyday life. Furthermore, red refers to the brutal and dangerous work in the mines, since many African people have lost their family members, working under extremely dangerous conditions. These tragic sites have turned into places of disintegration, with red symbolizing traumatic violent memories of women, whose men have disappeared in the mines. Using fragile soft threads, the artist wants to emphasize the fragility and softness of women, whose tragic stories she is documenting. 
Belonging to the generation of post-apartheid South African artists, Marasela investigates the fate of women separated from their families during the apartheid era, as well as analyzes post-apartheid Black female identities.


Senzeni Marasela (b. 1977 in Thokoza, ZA) has obtained her BA in Fine Arts at the Wits School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, ZA. The artist was part of the 56th Johannesburg Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and most recently has received the K21 Global Art Award 2023. Marasela’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, ZA; Gallery AOP, Johannesburg, ZA; Axis Gallery, New York, NY, US; Stenersen Museum, Oslo, NO; A Museum of Women, Dolls and Memories, Devon, UK; Upstream Public Art Project, Amsterdam, NL; South African National Gallery, Cape Town, ZA. Marasela participated at group exhibitions at Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., US; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, US; Transpalette, Bourges, FR; Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Milan, IT; Centro de Investigação Artística, Lisbon, PT; Royal Academy of Fine Art, Antwerp, BE; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama, US; Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, NZ; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, DE; Bildmuseet, Umea, SE; Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, DE, among others. Her work features in prominent international and private collections, including the Newark Museum, Smithsonian Institution, and MoMA. Senzeni Marasela lives and works in Johannesburg, ZA.