What’s Wrong, Dear Jane incorporates mixed media and sound which explores several emotions and relationships that are centralto Syowia’s practice: the female body, social perception and specific questions about gender issues and the role of women in society.
At the centre of the work, a strong female presence symbolised by an anonymous terracotta figure stands on a platform covered by a brightly coloured and patterned cloth. Referencing African and Latin American imagery and perception of female fertility goddesses, the figure’s voluptuous lines are interrupted by several openings, which emanate light from a source placed inside the work.
Using strips of braided, highly coloured fabrics, the artist slowly connects the openings on the central figure to hooks fixed to mirrors at either side of the platform. The quiet repetition of braiding, stretching the cords out from the central figure and weaving them in and out creates tension by slowly building up a physical and emotional web that occupies the space around the figure, stretching out into the audience and delineating a compressed, trapped, almost claustrophobic space.
In the second phase of the work, the artist takes on another persona by wearing a stocking over her head, masking her identity. This moment is about defining space, being territorial, the stocking over her head referencing ideas of being a mugger, an attacker, and of being suffocated. This energy creates feelings of domination and makes connections to violence – emotional, physical, psychological - creating fear and tension within the installation. The performer ultimately breaks down the ceramic figure with a baton, and replaces the large figure with 100 small ceramic figures, initially contained in a suitcase, which are placed on the same platform, with a mechanical, repetitive action.
This anonymous, homogeneous mass of figures assembled in a grid format represents pre-conceived perceptions of how women should be, what women are conforming to and are expected to do, referencing the idea that the female body belongs to the community, or rather the female body becomes part of other peoples’ norms and ideas of what should be.
Mixed media Installation, photography, sound and video.
Kenya Art Fair
Kuona Trust Art Center