SHAME! And Masculinity from a South African perspective

Date: 25/02/2021

Time: 17.00 - 18.30

Location: online

Miller’s work for the exhibition SHAME! And Masculinity (H401 – 2020/2021, curator Ernst van Alphen) is the soundscape ‘Special Boy’, a personal and moving piece addressing shame and masculinity. Miller describes shame as a retrospective issue, as a kind of collision between childhood experiences and adult perspectives on them and ‘Special Boy’ as a way of working through earlier shame, a reclamation and re-appropriation. 

Ena Jansen (South Africa, 1951) studied literature at the universities of Stellenbosch and Utrecht, obtained her PhD at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1992 and taught there for sixteen years before coming to teach at the VU and the UvA. She lives in Cape Town and has published on Elisabeth Eybers and the Anglo-Boer War. In Bijna Familie/Like Family (2016, Cossee Publishers and 2019, Wits University Press) she wrote in an accessible and profound way about culture and history on the basis of the key role of the housekeeper in the South African family. In doing so, Jansen reveals the complexity of power relations and the toughness of traditions – good or bad – and also gives us a better understanding of South Africa.

Ena Jansen wrote a number of articles about the work of Marlene Dumas. Op soek na die ontwykende werkelikheid’ appeared in a leading South African cultural magazine and was the first article to introduce Dumas’ work to the South African public (De Kat, June 1994). In the article ‘Spiegelschrift en Sneeuwwitje in anti-apartheid Netherlands’ (in Kunsten in Beweging, 2008), Ena Jansen discusses the work of Dumas and the South African poet Elisabeth Eybers. Both gained an influential position in the Netherlands and internationally.


Philip Miller is a South African, international composer and sound artist based in Cape Town, South Africa. His work is multi-faceted, often developing from collaborative projects in theatre, film, video and sound installations. Miller is currently an honorary fellow at ARC (The Research Initiative in Archive and Public Culture) at the University of Cape Town. One of Miller’s most significant collaborators is the internationally acclaimed artist William Kentridge. His music to Kentridge’s animated films and multimedia installations has been heard in some of the most prestigious museums, galleries and concert halls in the world, including MoMA, SFMOMA, The Guggenheim Museums in New York and Berlin, Tate Modern, London, La Fenice Opera House, Carnegie Hall and in Australia at the Perth Festival.

‘REwind: A Cantata for Voice, Tape, and Testimony’ (2007) prefigures the questions of memory and performance that underlie Philip Miller’s multimedia exploration of testimony from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). This piece includes the voices of victims, resistance fighters and government oppressors, taken from recordings made during the commission’s hearings. Miller’s work was a lengthy procession of stories recounted in solo arias, small ensembles and choruses. Many were told from several perspectives simultaneously. The result is an audiovisual creation that sutures together disparate elements to reflect the complexity of the South African truth-telling process.

Marlene Dumas is considered one of the most significant and influential painters working today. With the curator, Dumas selected a number of drawings for SHAME! Exploring Masculinities that have never been on show before.

With her work, she gives new content to the meaning that painting can still have today, in an era dominated by visual culture. Her intense, emotionally charged paintings and drawings address existentialist themes and often reference art historical motifs and current political issues. Dumas often finds inspiration in newspaper and magazine images from her immense visual archive. The artist believes that the endless stream of photographic images that bombards us every day influences how we see each other and the world around us. Dumas addresses this onslaught by revealing the psychological, social, and political aspects of these images. Her drawings and paintings have an enormous directness and expressiveness, which the artist couples with a certain analytical distance. Dumas does not shy away from controversial topics. In both her visual work and her writings, Dumas reflects on contemporary painting and what it means to be an artist.