Buhlebezwe Siwani is a visual artist working in performance, photography, sculpture and installation. Siwani completed her BAFA (Hons) at the Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg in 2011 and her MFA at the Michaelis School of Fine Arts in 2015. In addition to her independent practice Siwani is one of the founding members of the influential collective IQhiya. Locally Siwani has participated in group exhibitions at Stevenson, Gallery Momo, Whatiftheworld, Smac Gallery, The Iziko National Gallery and Museum Africa Johannesburg. Notable International exhibitions include Documenta 14, Art/Afrique, Le Nouvel Atelier, Foundation Louis Vuitton, Africa Raccontare un Mondo, PAC museum Milan, Deep Memory, Kalmar Art Museum, Sweden, Busuku benzolo, Labor Zero Labor, Triangle Arts, Marseilles, France, Reparations, Theater Spektakel, Zurich, Switzerland.
Thematically Siwani’s work interrogates the patriarchal framing of the black female body and black female experience within the South African context. As an initiated sangoma (traditional healer), Siwani has also used her artistic practice to delve into religious subjects and the often-perplexing relationship between Christianity and African spirituality.
Her sculptural work examines the manner in which the body is cleansed, as an act and as a ritual. The work queries “cleansing” in coming-of-age rituals. Her intention is to solicit a response from the viewer regarding different ways of purification and in particular the problematic notion of purity as it pertains to the black female body.
Siwani is concerned with the interplay between what is perceived to be an idealistic and romantic view of purity and an otherwise very gritty process. The sculptural work evokes a memory of her own and many other black females’ passage into adulthood from childhood. The green soap is used for many purposes. It is not only used to cleanse one’s clothes but also one’s body and the digestive system (as an enema). It is the washing of self into a new self, the virtuosity implied by participating in particular rites of passage. The bowl is also, a marker of colonialism, it was made by the Dutch settlers who first colonized South Africa.