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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

Simone Leigh's Sovereignty at the U.S. Pavilion, Venice Biennale

"I like the idea of thinking of femininity as something solid and enduring rather than always something fragile and weak." - Simone Leigh

As the 59th of the Venice Biennale draws to a close, I'm looking at the photos I took (they are decent, for once) of Simone Leigh's large-scale sculptural work and I'm having some belated thoughts.

Leigh's figurative sculptures in bronze and ceramic (the latter is her medium of choice) illustrate her relentless focus on the exploration and celebration of the strenght of Black women across global histories. The artist coined the expression “the creolisation of form” to describe the combination of different cultural languages: 19th-century West African art, Black American material culture and, importantly, the colonial history of international exhibitions with its roots into the appropriation and misuse of African tribal work.

Leigh's archetypal women are beautiful, nurturing, powerful and empowering. They are a hymn to female resilience and to Black women's ability to overcome oppression. These eyeless, sometimes featureless or even headless figures are haunting and majestic, and they ooze an unshakeable spirit of strength and resistance. They are the ultimate beacon of the female experience, which is why the title Sovereignty is so utterly fitting.

There is one more week to see this at the Giardini before the Venice Biennale closes its doors on November 27th.

Sphinx, 2022

Anonymous, 2022

Martinique, 2022

Sphinx, 2022

Sharifa, 2022

Sentinel (detail), 2022

Sentinel (detail), 2022

Last Garment, 2022

Cupboard, 2022

© Simone Leigh

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