2015 - omang


The English translation of the question in Setswana: 'OMANG?' is: 'WHO ARE YOU? The phrase also refers to the printed ID card that all citizens of Botswana must have.

The Theme of this body of work is an exploration of the question: ‘WHO ARE YOU?’ with overt reference to questions of citizenship.  That question has many more subtle depths of meaning, bringing up issues of belonging or not belonging within society in general. The most obvious is the issue of human migration and Botswana and South Africa are not alone in their varied reactions to the pressures of immigration, legal and illegal. Many other countries worldwide, particularly in Europe and in the United States of America, are also tackling these issues, the direct result of war, political unrest and economic pressure.

My intention was to widen the discourse around the question: ‘O MANG-WHO ARE YOU?’ broadening it out of the narrow confines of mere citizenship to encompass more fundamental questions surrounding the power politics found in every community, small or large. I wanted to question the ‘them’ and ‘us’, found within notions of nationality, ethnicity, and tribe. 

My aim was to use gender and identity to ask questions about how we see ourselves and how we see others.

The visual aesthetic of this body of work is tied directly to the meaning of the work. The ground on which the majority of the images are placed is printed cotton called 'Leteisi' or ‘shweshwe’, derived from the Afrikaans word “Duits” meaning “German,” from the word: Deutsch. The cloth is identified by small and intricate repeat patterns in one or two colours placed upon a single colour ground. The fabric has a history embedded in Colonialism. This history has resulted in the cloth’s special place in the contemporary dress of Southern African women, particularly those of Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Their cultural borrowing of a cloth introduced by a foreign power to cover the ‘naked native’ bodies of the colonised, has resulted in the creation of fashionable attires worn at special occasions and deemed almost a National Dress in Botswana. The bright liquorice allsorts colours of the material used - turquoise, pink, orange and green, represent the most up to date ‘Leteisi’ designs, as opposed to the more traditional patterns that come in muted blue, red and brown.

The metamorphosis of something that was once ‘imposed’ into something that is now ‘owned’ could be a metaphor for a future, where there is no longer a need to ask: ‘O Mang - Who are you?’ where there is no longer an ‘us’ and ‘them’, merely an ‘us’. We are all human after all.

The fabric is overprinted with linocuts, originated specifically for this project.