Representations of Black Women in Leisure

Late night soak by Moleboge Mokgosi

A growing trend is the representation of black woman in leisure. Who are the artists that are influencing this trend and why are these representations important?

The representation of black women in leisure is an important and growing trend in the contemporary art market because it challenges traditional representations of black women as laborers or objects of desire and instead showcases them as individuals who are entitled to leisure time and self-care. 

Today, many established and emerging artists are challenging historical stereotypes and creating new representations of black femininity through their work. In our context, this representation needs to be viewed with more critical lens as South Africa is a country that has an intricate history of racial discrimination, something that black women have been and continue to experience the repercussions of. For decades, black women in South Africa were excluded from many aspects of public life, and their representation in art was often limited to negative and stereotypical depictions. By depicting black women in leisure, these artists are asserting and sharing the right of black women to enjoy their lives and to be seen as individuals with their own agency and desires. This representation is also significant because it challenges the dominant narratives about black women’s lives in art historically and provides a positive vision of what black women’s lives can be and already are. 

One artist who has been particularly noteworthy in recent years in this movement is Zandile Tshabalala, an artist who exhibited in the TAF Grad show in 

2021. Her, large-scale paintings feature black women in luxurious settings, such as lounging in opulent interiors, enjoying tropical vacations, or in moments of joy. Her work challenges traditional ideas about black women’s place in society and asserts their right to pleasure and leisure by celebrating their beauty and humanity, while challenging the stereotypical representations that have been so prevalent in Western art. 

These works from TAF Paper and works like them are important because they challenge traditional representations of black women as either hypersexualized objects or invisible laborers. These representations have been used throughout history to justify the oppression and marginalization by not allowing for the full range of human experience and emotion. Through showcasing black women in leisurely activities, these artists are reasserting the humanity of black women by providing a new way of seeing and understanding black femininity. These representations are also important because they provide a new model of self-care and self-love for women who have historically misrepresented and sidelined. 

For artists wanting to tell similar stories in their work – it is important to find your own signature style and narrative – it can be very easy to copy another artists’ work and create art that is derivative. This account is such an important one that needs to be told and value needs to be placed on the unique way that it is shared. 

Read this interesting article for more:


Lesedi Kganya by Mzoxolo Vimba
Portrait of Mother Nature by Khumo Ramaila

Written by Shayna Rosendorff 


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