Nina van der Westhuizen celebrates African women at Casa Labia
Posted on February 9, 2015.
Nina van der Westhuizen revisits two European old masters in Afrodite: A Celebration of Women. Nina is a resident of Darling and has produced a series of portraits of Tannie Evita Bezuidehout. The portrait series plays on the grand tradition of the sitter surrounded by elements that symbolise their station and status in life.
The Afrodite portraits feature African women from a variety of ethnicities; the title of the exhibition being a play on the goddess Aphrodite within an African context. Nina allegorises what it takes to be a woman in Africa by surrounding them with indigenous fauna and flora as metaphors for strength and tenacity. The flora is represented in simultaneous delicate budding, fragile flowering and robust fruition as a representation of all the seasons of life.
While the portraits are visual feasts, they are not that of the exotic orientalising 'other', but a celebration of the women she has encountered on her journeys. Nina places herself literally and figuratively within this body of the work.
Her vision includes forgotten or overlooked heroines and explorers in what has been a male dominated territory. In the 'Odalisque' series, milky-skinned European women lie languidly amidst the lush verdant growth and heat of the southern African sun.
Her sense of humour comes through as she imagines how her ancestors; arriving in the Cape from cold and restrictive northern climes, might have allowed these women just to loosen their stays a little.
This body of work is not that of the male eye objectifying or claiming the 'other', but that of a female artist claiming male territory and giving expression to feminine pleasure and power.