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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Mlungu Islands of South Africa

.The Mlungu Islands of South Africa

On a trip to Venda last year with the Honours UJ students many of my some what idealistic views on poverty, race and segregation were challenged.  We stayed with a local family for three days experiencing rural life.  The locals were so intrigued by the white students which led me to ask our host, a Venda woman, if there was any difference between me, a Jozi born UJ student, and the white American Boston students that had been there three months before us.  Her response with a small grin finding the question a little silly was 'a white is a white, you are all foreighners'  (Mlungu being the word for a white person)
I clearly felt like a foreigner there, as did the black students, but on returning to Jozi I started noticing how separated whites are from blacks, even simply by language.  I have heard so many white conversations reminiscent  of 'Die Swart Gevaar' Expressing fear of twonships, fear of too many blacks moving into white suburbia, schools becoming 'too black.' The new South Africa is wonderful as long as my white world is not compromised!

I wanted a visual representation of just how many whites there are in South Africa compared to blacks.  Based on Stats SA website I created The Mlungu islands of South Africa.  This series of works shows statistical estimations on the ratio between whites and blacks in each province.  It also expresses the 'Black Sea'  that whites only pass through if necessary to get to their 'White Islands.'

I have chosen to make these works out of beads. Beads are used by many African cultures as a method of communication.  I am expressing my thoughts via this method suggesting that perhaps if whites do not want to feel like foreigners then they should open up to the reality that they live in Africa, and maybe communicating in an African language or method is the first step to changing this.


Northern Cape

Kwa Zulu Natal



Free State

Western Cape

North West Province


Eastern Cape


  1. A telling series! Are the beads arranged according to some kind of geography? The Western Cape kind of looks like it's centered around Cape Town and the Garden Route :)

  2. This is such a stunning visual! You amaze me everytime with your clever use of materials. I love how the beads relate to this series. I love seeing your work. Keep it coming!

  3. thanks for the comments! I will keep them coming, thanks Kirsten. The island shapes are not geographical, but these are just samples , the real ones will be geographical and not estimations