Tschabalala Self reimagines and narrates the experience of black female bodies in compositions which are monuments to a people and culture that society so often marginalises and degrades. For Love to Saartjie, 2015, the artist has turned to the life of Saartjie Baartman, a South African woman exhibited as the Hottentot Venus to 19th-century European audiences. Put on display for curious onlookers, Baartman was made into an inhuman object of fascination. Self’s Love to Saartjie, instead, celebrates her humanity; as the artist explained, ‘I recognize her as a real person and in making that painting I wanted to picture a young woman. Not an object, not a corpse’ (T. Self, quoted in J. Mahmoud, ‘Tschabalala Self’s Avatars of Black Womanhood’, Hyperallergic, 4 March 2019). Similarly, Colored 2, 2015, venerates a voluptuous body. By rendering its figure as an icon, Self’s richly layered composition uses texture both compositionally and as a symbol of her subject’s complex identity. Partially inspired by her mother’s sewing, she incorporates fabric swatches into her dimensional compositions. Her ‘avatars transcend subjectivity’ by finding power in a variable, transformative embodiment (T. Self, quoted in J. Mahmoud, ‘Tschabalala Self’s Avatars of Black Womanhood’, Hyperallergic, 4 March 2019). Born in Harlem, New York, Self studied at Bard and then the Yale School of Art. Her trenchant criticism of the portrayal of women of colour has ensured that her own rise has been swift, and in the past few years she has had solo exhibitions at Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London, the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, among others. Currently, she has a solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.