In 2000 I completed a photographic series called “Trappings” consisting of blurry, abstracted photographs of historical South African military costumes displayed at the South African Museum of Military History in Johannesburg. The series was made during the time of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, which was a process whereby victims of gross human rights violations during the Apartheid era were invited to give statements about their experiences. During these hearings perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution. The hearings were broadcasted on public radio and, thus, the Apartheid era with all its atrocities was very much part of the public debate at the time, both in South Africa and internationally. The “Trappings” series was my way of thinking about and asking questions to do with the role of institutional violence in South African history and the idea of the victim and the perpetrator in the context of our shared past.
I made these two sculpture after the “Trappings” series and here I took my engagement with these military costumes as objects representative of our Colonial/Apartheid past a step further. I learnt how to sew and embroider and, with the help of a pattern found at the archive of fashion in Antwerp, I set about recreating one of the costumes which I photographed for the “Trappings” series, that of the Officer in the Transvaal Horse Artillery (1903-1913). The jacket is an exact replica of the original costume, made in a size that fits my own body. The only difference between the original costume and my own recreation is the choice of fabric. Instead of the thick dramatic cloth that the original costume is made from, I chose to use different types of vichy or gingham cloth, which is commonly associated with inexpensive and everyday domestic items such as table-cloths and napkins, as well as inexpensive shirts and skirts for everyday wear.