Paying Homage

Last year’s Sasol New Signatures winner, Cape Town-based artist, 54-year-old Zyma Amien, is currently preparing for her solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in September 2017.

In addition to walking away with R100 000 in prize money as the 2016 Sasol New Signatures winner, Zyma Amien’s prize included a solo exhibition, to be hosted at the Pretoria Art Museum. As with her award-winning entry, Zyma Amien’s artwork intends to address labour issues, particularly within the garment and textile industry. It is a reaction to the adversity faced by her mother and grandmother who worked, and continue to work, in this trade. Paying Homeage again references the lack of recognition, exploitation as well as mental and physical trauma they endured. ‘With this installation, I aim to honour these workers and pay homage to them,’ says Amien. The solo exhibition forms part of her prize, and the installation Paying Homage consists of 21 long gauze overalls with sewing machines placed at the end of the overalls. The installation occupies a space of about eleven metres along the wall together with five upright sewing machines with seven metres of gauze. On the gauze she has stitched buttons, inserted zips and added detailed stitching and overlocked patterns. This alludes to the task seamstresses perform on a daily basis. On the floor next to each station will lie a heap of buttons and zips. 

To complement the installation, Amien is in the process of creating prints, etchings and embossings. The embossings will consist of buttons, zips and pins. Her intention with the buttons is to visually show the alienation and loneliness that the workers endure. ‘I created overalls, an outer garment worn by workers (these are worn by female workers), using gauze. Gauze, usually used for wounds and scars, was used to allude to historical, physical and structural pain,’ says Amien. ‘Pins were used to hold the side seams together, which is a metaphor for the manner in which the machinists have been pinned to their seats and sewing machine as machinists. My mother worked as a machinist for more than 50 years. The word “homage” is synonymous with recognition, honour, tribute and acknowledgement – all emotions I experience in relation to the garment workers, while “pay” refers to the minimum wage these workers earn. Currently, they are earning R788 per week.’ Zyma Amien’s solo exhibition coincides with the announcement of the winner of the Sasol New Signatures 2017, which will be announced on 30 August at a gala event. After which, the winning works along with Amien’s exhibition will be displayed at the Pretoria Art Museum from 31 August 2017 to 8 October 2017. For more information, visit www.sasolnewsignatures.co.za.

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