Marlene Dumas (b. 1953)
Marlene Dumas (b. 1953)

My moeder voor sy my moeder was (My mother before she became my mother)

Marlene Dumas (b. 1953)
My moeder voor sy my moeder was (My mother before she became my mother)
signed, titled and dated 'My moeder voor sy my moeder was 2010 M Dumas (My mother before she became my mother)' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
78¾ x 39 3/8 in. (200 x 100 cm.)
Painted in 2010.
Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner

Lot Essay

Making art is moving backwards and forwards in the present tense all the time.

I met a girl called Tulia the other day; she told me her mother came from Haiti. I told her mine was from South Africa. We talked about the importance of mothers. We also talked about the suffering of slaves, about voodoo, and how she understood the mixture of African paganism and Christianity. We talked about the novices that wear white during rituals, and what the words "keep standing" meant to her. However you are humiliated, don't use physical force-but never give in.

In 1983, I participated in a group show called Rest Risiko in Maastricht, Holland, where I contributed a short text to the catalogue [see page 76]. Among other drawings and mixed media works I showed Meermin (Mermaid) from 1982. It was related to the longing for my homeland South Africa and my mother's gardens, and my interest in different religions and various ways of trying to understand why we leave and why we die.

My mother understood and loved nature. She taught me to trust in destiny. I never actually painted her while she was alive. Before her death in 2007 she once told me: "You never painted me when I was young, don't paint me now that I am old." I painted her after a photograph from her youth, as a young woman who did not know at that time that she would become a mother.

This painting is not part of a series and it has never before been shown in public. It is an homage to a good spirit. A spirit that makes you smile.

Marlene Dumas
Amsterdam, 2011

A fortune for the mermaid

For the ceremony I need -
12 compacts of French powder of 2 different brands,
12 bottles of Rêve d'Or perfume,
2 white flowered cloths,
4 candles
12 eggs
2 combs
2 mirrors
2 cups
2 small spoons
2 forks
2 Bibles
2 rosaries
2 parasols
2 prayer-mats
2 silver rings and
2 chains with brightly glowing pendants.

Half of all these articles are thrown into the sea during the ceremony. The other half I am allowed to keep. In the place where I live I put up an altar for these things. The relatives come and must be many otherwise the mermaid drags me into the water. I am not allowed to drink alcohol during the ceremony. The family members drink Dubonnet and champagne.

Afi Kodjohu in Voodoo: Africa's Secret Power (1980)

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