FNB Art Joburg
Sandton Convention
Centre, Johannesburg,
South Africa​

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Practice of Interest

Portraying the shadow self lovingly

with Boemo Diale


For this week’s ______ Of Interest, shortly after Kalashnikovv Gallery opened her solo, No Matter How Far I Run, FNB Art Joburg shares some tea with Boemo Diale.

There are three things I have found to be consistent in Boemo Diale’s practice. The use of mixed media on paper, nude figurations, and living beings: entrapped but dancing in ceramic urns.

Varying iterations of Bemo Dollies, the entrapped figures are the same black plus-size, bulbous-nosed, rose-cheeked, full-lipped, small breasted, bald woman in various scenarios. Always naked, Bemo Dollie lives in a ceramic vessel. Entrapped and perhaps built around her, she contorts her body to make her enveloping residence work. Clumsy, sophisticated, empathetic and sexy: she lives a full, nuanced life in spite of her straightforwardly damning surroundings.

A character that multidisciplinary artist Boemo Diale first developed in high school, Bemo Dollie encapsulates the love-seasoned absurdity that is not only surviving, but thriving while femme and black. “It started out as a doodle I made during an Afrikaans class.” An urge she fulfilled before she could justify its function, Bemo Dollie visualises depersonalisation as a means to cope. “Back then it was a nice sort of puppet for me to put my feelings into,” she says. A character and performance Diale is still getting to know, in her practice it exists in the capacity of “delving into otherness” and portraying the shadow self lovingly. 

Nude, the figures in Diale’s work surface the ideas adrienne maree brown put forward in a Man Repeller feature some years ago. “Pleasure gets lost under the weight of oppression,” she said referencing her book Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good. Published in 2019, brown says Pleasure Activism was primarily written for those who, through inherited and current oppression, had lost touch with their natural right to pleasure. “We need to stay in visceral touch with what brings us aliveness, contentment, joy — so that we do not settle for suffering or fighting for crumbs.”

To find this pleasure, brown encourages the pleasure deprived to experiment, indulge and surrender into what could feel good. One of the ways brown recommends igniting pleasure is by learning to look upon our own bodies in wonder and awe. She says: “Understanding that it has been hundreds of years of white supremacy trying to convince us that our miraculous human bodies are inferior, not beautiful, only desirable as a fetish.”

As Audre Lorde says in Uses of the Erotic, black women have been taught to suspect their bodies as the sites where they are abused and devalued. Like clockwork, I have avoided what I suspect.

A centre she returns to; the above hold together Diale’s multidisciplinary practice as she continues to expand the ways she investigates the dexterity of intersectionality. In spite of collective action against identity hierarchies, the characters in Diale’s practice still show up. A consistent set of juxtapositions, defying systemic projections that predicted their extinction; Bemo Dollie thrive joyously.

The act of what Diale refers to as “running into and towards the self”, in No Matter How Far I Run, Bemo Dollie goes from the face of depersonalisation to an active demonstration, attempting to rectify the avoidance that makes living under systemic violence bearable.



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Ruth Ige. Don't hide your glory, 2022.
Acrylic on canvas. 122 x 122cm. (© Copyright 2022, STEVENSON. All rights reserved)

Friday, 8th September

Collection tour of Anglo American

144 Oxford Rd, Rosebank

8 September 2023

Event details

The Anglo American art and object collection is a combination of art collected over several decades through four different companies: Anglo American, de Beers Group, Anglo American Platinum and Kumba Iron Ore.

The collection comprises of 3600 works, with around 1000 pieces in the collection on display at the newly commissioned Rosebank offices. Although vast, the collection experienced an acquisition hiatus from the early 2000s until 2021 creating a significant gap in the collection’s representation of contemporary art. The collection now has a dedicated curator, Megan Scott, tasked with its cataloguing and digitisation, opening an exciting new chapter which will see the gradual procurement of significant works that reflect our contemporary South African and African art world.

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