23 Nqoba Boyi

I am what you say, till I’m not.

by Nqoba Boyi

Clothes offer protection, privacy, and comfort and provide the wearer with a sense of character.

Think of a young child who still cannot dress him/herself and who requires the help of a guardian or a parent to get dressed. 

Think of a runway model whose job is only to be a platform of display, used to showcase the aesthetic choices of the designer. 

In both cases, these individuals have little choice in how their clothing is an expression of themselves and their individual character.  When we have no choice in the “clothes” in which we are covered or the “labels” that are assigned to us, this leads to a sense of discomfort. For the child as he grows, what may have once been something which offered protection and a sense of belonging, if afforded no choice, leads to a smothering of individuality and prevention of personal growth. 

In this series of performative works, I utilise clothing as an allegory for societal expectations, which are projected as limitations onto the individual. Clothing becomes a metaphoric material which may trap, restrain, throttle, and overwhelm … but is ultimately a skin which must be shed, a rejection of the old in order to embrace a becoming in the acceptance of a new self.