February 2–May 14, 2019

Made Visible

Contemporary South African Fashion and Identity

“What was concealed in the everyday is now being made visible.”—Nomusa Makhubu

From 1948 until the early 1990s, the institution of apartheid legalized the systematic oppression and disenfranchisement of people of color in South Africa. Twenty-five years after its end, glaring inequalities in wealth and access to power remain.

“Made Visible: Contemporary South African Fashion and Identity” celebrates the identities of South Africans historically denied their rights: Xhosa, Ndebele, and Zulu communities; women of color; members of the LGBTQI community; and rural citizens, among others. Many of the artists featured in the exhibition explore the way that clothing communicates identity, documenting the fashion choices of brave individuals challenging the social norms of their times. Others examine how clothing has been used to create or erase cultural identity, or to enforce class divisions.

“Made Visible” includes photographs by Zanele Muholi (b. 1972), Mary Sibande (b. 1982), and Nomusa Makhubu (b. 1984); dresses from a five-year performance art project by Senzeni Marasela (b. 1977); a large-scale sculpture by Nandipha Mntambo (b. 1982); and documentation of works of performance art by Sethembile Msezane (b. 1991). The exhibition also highlights a number of recent acquisitions, including a 20th-century Ndebele beadwork ensemble, as well as knitwear designs by Laduma Ngxokolo (b. 1986) that draw inspiration from traditional Xhosa beadwork as a strategy of celebration and reclamation. Together, these artists reveal the lingering damage of the past and make visible icons of a just future.

  • Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Gallery (Gallery 155)


Generously supported by the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Exhibition Fund. Additional support from the Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Fund for Exhibitions.