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Thania Petersen

Thania Petersen


Garden of Passion Gaps

“Garden of Passion Gaps” installation work currently showing on the exterior of the CHURCH's gold facade.

The passion gap images appear in the artist’s latest video work ‘Kassaram’ currently on view in our video room. The passion gaps are also referenced in her newer textile work more specifically the work titled 'Onse ou Kaapi' also currently on view.

The 'Garden of Passion Gaps' perhaps lending its name from Heronymous Bosch's, 'Garden of Earthly Delights' where the centre panel in the latter work referenced the surreal and bizarre temptations on earth. The ‘strawberries’ scattered throughout the painting having various interpretations, oftentimes, being referenced to promiscuity or following the Catholic tradition of signifying birth and righteousness.

Thania has spoken of the removal of the teeth as being part of a systemic colonial attempt to destroy the clicking sounds in indigenous languages .... and in doing so attempting to eradicate them.

Onse Ou Kaapi

The use of textile embroidery has been prevalent within various cultures, from the Imperial silk robes of the Ch’ing dynasty to ancient Indian embroidery more particularly those preserved by the Mughal period from 1556. In Islamic Persia, embroideries from the 16 and 17th centuries were designed in ways that depicted animal and human images in geometric forms instead of figurative representation. The Quranic proscription discouraging figurative representation would allow the Islamic world to create abstraction and forms of minimalism in contrast to European depiction of imagery over many centuries.

Thania’s textile embroidery reflects on her Islamic heritage. Being aware of the abstraction and minimalism within Islamic art, she has chosen to rely on figurative depictions throughout her work. The question is whether the work is actually to be looked at as figuration in absence. There is nothing literal in the interpretation of her work.

The background of both this textile work as well the ‘Kassaram’ video are in fact based on colonial images showing Cape Town and Table Mountain as idealized landscapes devoid of slave and indigenous cultures. Thania begins placing images within the landscape, layering them, creating conversations as the images speak to each other and to themselves.

The embroidery stitching is intense and delicate, the colours creating the illusion of a painting. Thania greenery in the embroidery in parts, are three dimensional objects, they seem to envelope and escape from the work. It is the blues of the ocean and the sky that reference the movement of slaves and free men from far off lands facilitating the creolization of her communities.

Despite the conceptually complex nature of her practice in general, the works are playful and happy. It is a beautiful life and the works remain reflective of this.

This work is on view courtesy of the @norvalfoundation
For artist available works, contact @smac_gallery

Twee Gevreetjie mannequin legs

The biscuit (cookie) was named after the early 20th century South African politician and Boer War General J. B. M. Hetzog.

It was invented by the Cape- Malay community to demonstrate their support after he promised to give women the right to vote and equal rights to coloured communities in 1920s. After the first promise to give women the right to vote in 1930s, but not the second, the community began baking the cookies with a brown and pink icing called "twee gevreetjie" meaning two faced, showing their dissatisfaction in him.

The twee gevreetjie biscuits on legs first appeared in the multidisciplinary artist @thaniapetersen latest video work ‘Kassaram’. They are seen walking up Table Mountain in a procession. Thania created this prototype sculptural work choosing to further experiment within her practice. These sculptures are seen for the first time within our space.

Historically, food in art has always been documented within indigenous cultures. From as far back as the Stone Age, human being used vegetable juice and animal fat as binding agents, while the ancient Egyptians carved early stone sculptures of crops and bread.


Food has been an allegory for various social and political issues. Thania has highlighted the impact of food, more particularly biscuits within creolized communities. The Hertzoggie biscuits were created first in support of the Boer War General and Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, JBM Hertzog when he promised a form of emancipation of black communities in the 1920’s.


He would however backtrack. Naturally, Thania would create the Hertzoggie biscuit with wings. She symbolically makes them fly and/or fly away. The Hertzoggie biscuits have retained their name, not to honour but to dishonour. It also symbolizes the transient and ephemeral nature of food, the ability to create a language through alternate mediums but more so it relates to the unity and solidification of protest.

In further protest to Hertzog’s about turn, creolised communities began making the twee gevreetjie biscuits pictured here, the latter being distinguishable with its brown and pink icing. It’s a biscuit that has two faces.

It was also in the 1920 that Picasso would paint ‘Still Life with Biscuits’. It was a relatively tranquil time in his life, marked by the birth of his son Paolo with wife Olga Koklova.

Thania continues to speak to contemporary culture and the ability of food to create cross cultural dialogue.


The artwork SLAMSE represents a beautiful medora associated with Muslim naming cermemonies in South Africa. Delicately stitched in golden and silver clinquant threads this scarf covers the pillow of a baby during a doopmal naming ceremony, or is worn as the headdress of a bride who takes her husband’s name.

Traditionally worn by hajji—those who have returned from haj or pilgrimage—the medora is a stitched narrative of purity.


Turning the fine cloth of virtue, new life and commitment into a slate for derogatory name-calling, Petersen challenges the erasure experienced by a nameless people. “Slamse” was a derogatory name used by Afrikaans speakers who corrupted the word “Islam”, sometimes referring to “slamse gevaar” meaning “Muslim peril”. As Petersen explains, “by adopting this derogatory name and using it ourselves, we became comfortable with things that shouldn’t be comfortable. We accepted ‘norms’ that in reality are not normal”.


KASSARAM means a big mess, out of place or upside down. KASSARAM is Petersen’s most recent film which analyses strategies used in creating and perpetuating cultural divides amongst people of colour through art, from colonialism to our present day.

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