Marlene Dumas

Kaapstad South-Africa 1953, lives and works in Amsterdam

Black Drawings
111 drawings: ink on paper, one piece of slate
total 230 x 295 cm

In Black Drawings Dumas has grouped 111 drawings to form a single work. Carried out in India ink, the drawings show faces of a wide variety of black people: men and women, young and old, each with distinct features and an individual mood. In order to create each of these faces, Dumas has drawn on her extensive visual archive. As a whole, the work is a response to photographs found in ethnographic books, which portray the 'type' rather than the individual person. Undoubtedly linked with Dumas's own youth in South Africa, the work attests to her resistance to the uniform, stereotypical image of 'the black' and to the system of apartheid. The piece of slate that has been applied at the lower left of the work could stand for this cliché: something which is nothing but black, void of individual characteristics. Another striking element is the drawing at the upper right, possibly a portrait of the artist as a young girl. Her hair has been brushed into smooth pigtails, and she is holding her hand in front of her face in a gesture of aversion or shame.