Post-2000, Nel concentrated on crockery as a still-life motif stereotypically associated with domesticity and feminine identity.
While Nel's earlier work frequently features the tea cup as a recurring device symbolising the domestic sphere, in these later renditions, completed in the mid-2000s, they are fractured, fragmented and overturned - suggestive of some earlier physical or psychological violence. The spillage and subsequent staining that results from this disturbance seem to imply a loss of control or, perhaps, blood. This inference is especially relevant in light of the national increase in, and normalisation of violent crime, especially that of sexual assault, since South Africa's political transition in 1994.
"The fractured cup represents the enduring and irreversible effects of violence on the human psyche - whether a physical assault at the hands of a stranger or emotional abuse meted out by an intimate relation."
In an attempt at order, broken shards are sometimes arranged by size - an act that reveals the residual, exponential nature of trauma, where physical aftermath is often the only evidence of an otherwise undocumented narrative. When read in reverse, these sequences also suggest the debilitating processes of physical or mental deterioration.
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