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Plastic Crowns
Phumzile Khanyile
Artwork 2016–
Phumzile Khanyile's photograph their series 'Plastic Crowns' consists of a portrait of an individual.
Artwork: Phumzile Khanyile, from the series Plastic Crowns (2016–). Inkjet print on Photo Rag. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Afronova Gallery.
Artist Phumzile Khanyile Title Plastic Crowns Date 2016– Materials Inkjet print on Photo Rag Dimensions Dimensions variable Credit Courtesy of the artist and Afronova Gallery

To Khanyile, her photographic series Plastic Crowns describes "a journey of self-discovery." Consisting of self-portraits covertly taken in her childhood home while her grandmother was asleep or at church, it presents a body of work that is deeply personal, the artist modelling aspirations and desires. By draping chiffon dresses and headscarves over her camera’s lens, Khanyile composes imperfect images (with soft focus, muted colours and constellations of grain) reminiscent of those found in family photo albums. In one photograph, Nomvu, she holds a satin dressing gown in place, her gaze downturned. In another, she wears the titular plastic crown, a lone guest at an imagined party; and, in the third, her likeness is framed by heavy bangs and darkened eyebrows. Throughout the series, she uses metonyms to play the parts of others – balloons as lovers, her absent father an empty coat. Plastic Crowns is an honest account of the artist's exploration of what it means to be a woman negotiating societal expectations within the complexities of past and present family life.

b.1991, Soweto; works in Johannesburg.