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  • Writer's pictureLindsey de Roos

Alice Mann

Though, artist Alice Mann is not dealing entirely with the African diaspora. She should not be penalised, as she is engaging with the current discussions of power roles and the validity of voices. However, the work “southern suburbs 2016” reflects on the roles of black women as maids in Cape Town. Predominantly black and coloured women work as maids in many upper-class homes within the Western Cape. Mann situates the owners and the maids in the same context as a form of reclamation for the African women. She is enabling them to have a place within history that has not been systematically erased, primarily due to the propaganda and conditions of apartheid. She addresses her role of ethics as she accounts for herself as a maid-owner in the photographs. These images make a significant correlation to renaissance paintings of prominent figures of the time, and in these photographs she is historicising the maid's legacies, while holding the owners accountable for using a system that benefits people of their class and skin colour.

In spite of that, she seems to not have considered that this legacy will forever be the representation of those women. Though the discussion of maids and who occupies these roles is taboo, especially in white communities, the work is not adding or elevating a dialogue that is already occurring. The narrative of black women being carers within society is not new. There is a recognition of oppressive history in the images, but what healing is occurring for the women? Of which their identity is now being reduced to an occupation stemmed from oppression. This is simply foul play, accountability does not equate to forgiveness and cultural healing.

Mann is instead contributing to imagery of Africans which are the subject to the lens; this consists of ideas of survival, danger and primitivism. This type of imagery that was massively produced and circulated during apartheid. Black pride will always be felt through art that reflects personal connection, and that is not felt in Manns work.

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