Anja Marais’ work encompasses a hybrid of disciplines that include: photography, sculpture, mixed media collage, assemblage, and film. Born and raised in South Africa, but of French Huguenots refugee ancestry, Marais’ work explores themes of displacement and cultural heritage, exploring traces of colonization through the trek of the refugee, the pioneer, the pilgrim, and the exiled. Her work grows from a split-individuality, a marginality, and ambivalence caused by her own personal equation, that of being a white African, a long-lost European, a Colonizer, and the Colonized. Central to her work is the disintegration of material, creating metaphors for the human condition and the erosion of truth. Interested in how things deteriorate, morph, and the process of transformation, she oftentimes will repurpose found objects, particularly those that connect to memory, the construction of ritual, the structure of exile, and geographical belonging, and the impact of these on the construction of identity. Marais’ interest in the innate resonance of inanimate objects comes from African animistic religions, often passed down several generations through oral-delivered histories. Many works also address racial dominance and the will to oppress, recontextualizing the crimes of apartheid in relation to today’s socio-political experiences.
(Excerpt and image above selected from grant proposal. Artwork is copyright of the artist.)