This pair of photographs are not necessarily a diptych, but are certainly sisters. Their titles are both drawn from the song title Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season), a folk-melody rearranged and popularized by American songwriter Pete Seeger. Written in the late 1950s, the song was revisited by a number of different singers throughout the early 1960s, including Judy Collins and Marlene Dietrich, before being massively popularized by The Byrds in 1965. The lyrics – except for the title, which is repeated throughout the song, and the final two lines – consist of the first eight verses of the third chapter of the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes. The Biblical text posits there being a time and place for all things: birth and death, laughter and sorrow, healing and killing, war and peace.
Though the song implies there's a time for all these things, Seeger was a political activist for much of his life, fighting against violence and oppression globally. Seeger's long-term commitment to fighting injustice included early vocal opposition to Apartheid in South Africa. Seeger's arrangement of We Shall Overcome became an Anti-Apartheid anthem as early as the late 1960s, and saw renewed popularity in the early 1990s, in the final years before Apartheid's defeat.
The image depicts Sibande as a worshipper in white and red, on her knees in penitence or humility within a Church of revolution. The red Sophie represents contemporary post-Apartheid South Africa, lingering with anger and rebuilding even still now. The purple Sophie depicted in the stained glass window represents revolutionary South Africa, fighting back against Apartheid, especially referential to the "Purple Rain" protests of the late 1980s. Purple Sophie is therefore something like a Saint or perhaps even an Angel, to whom the Red Sophie bows down to, praying for strength, and perhaps forgiveness. For the relationship between the two figures, we might especially consider the song lyrics "A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up."
Artist Biography Mary Sibande (b. 1982, South Africa) has exhibited the world over in internationally leading museums. In 2010 she took part in the L’Exposition du Festival Mondi- al des Arts Nègres in Dakar, and her work was featured in the review From Pierneef to Gugulective: 1910-2010. Other galleries and events where her work has been shown include: the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town (2010); Museum of Contemporary Art, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2011); the Kiasma Museum for Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Museum Beelden aan Zee, Hague, Netherlands (2012); the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, Paris,- France (2013). Lyon Biennale 2013, Lyon, France; Musée Léon Driex, Saint Denis, la Réunion Island (2014); Dishman Art Museum, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas, USA; The Whitworth Museum, Manchester, UK (2015); The British Museum, London ,UK (2016); Kalmar Konstmuseum, Sweden (2017); Cairns Art Gallery, Cairns, Australia(2019); The MET Breuer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, (2018); and Somerset House, London, as part of the 2019 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair.
Sibande’s works are included in prominent collections internationally, including Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, USA; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC; Virginia Muse- um of Fine Art; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IIL USA; Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, France and Iziko South African Museums, South Africa.