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(B)LACK: SHARLENE KHAN (article first published : 2007-10-10)

Sharlene Khan’s(B)LACK at the KZNSA is an exhibition of mixed media works that play on various words and terms used in relation to street trade in South African city centres. In particular, her focus is on the inner city of Johannesburg.

Phrases such as “informal economy”, “previously disadvantaged”, “high risk areas”, “criminal”, “black” and “African” do more than simply define a location. These terms have come to classify, sometimes incorrectly, the people who live and work in these urban metropolitan centres. Many of these phrases inevitably end up creating a harmful image of already marginalized, peripheral citizens.

(B)LACK questions attitudes towards street traders through its ink drawings and embroidered images and its visual play of positive and negative terms that have become definitive of the inner-city. These works hope to make viewers aware of how words that are used about “Others” can easily perpetuate existing racial and xenophobic stereotypes, which continue to stigmatize an economically struggling sector of society.

Sharlene Khan was born in Durban in 1977, completed her first MA in Fine Arts at the University of Durban-Westville, and her second MA in Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand. She has exhibited extensively internationally in both group and solo shows and was one of the finalists in the 2005 MTN New Contemporaries Award. Although primarily a painter, she also works with installations, and her most recent work has incorporated fashion, performance and music in mock fashion shows and installations.

(B)LACK runs at the KZNSA until October 21 where a catalogue will be available for purchase. A complementary exhibition will be held concurrently at the BAT Centre, Durban.




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