Today I want to be free.
Free to be femme
Free to flourish
Free to be divine
Free to take what is mine.
No matter how they may try
Nobody can steal my shine
I am perfection personified.
Today I will eat joy
Savor the deliciousness of the moment
I breathed life into the world
So they will remember
I was here.
Sisters of South Africa
We are the ones we have been waiting for
We are coming for everything.
In You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down, Brand creates a celebratory tableau inviting the worship of black and brown, queer and femme bodies in an effort to reconfigure the visual cues of domination.
Using symbols such as flowers and motifs from votive regalia, Brand imbues her images with the divinity of religious totems, the grandeur of aristocratic insignia and the ubiquity of pop culture, suggesting contemporary icons for marginalised narratives. Visualising the multiverse of experiences and complex personhood of her collaborators, she disrupts homogenous tropes of victimhood and trauma around the lives of femme individuals who exist outside of the centres of power.
Brand’s work references Ayo Abiétou Coly’s statement on disruption, published in the catalogue for the landmark exhibition Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body:
These women gaze back at their spectators and actively deploy their bodies to achieve higher ends. Among such ends are the destabilization of hegemonic distribution and arrangement of space. When the colonized body, otherwise kept at bay, tactically lets itself into and settles in the dominant structure, it disrupts the self-production, perception, and projection of the metropolitan centre as a mono-chromatic and mono-cultural body ... The savage is no longer out there but has invaded the home here and has fissured it in the process.
The participants in Brand’s series are seen standing, seated and reclining in the manner of odalisques, yet remain self-possessed and confrontational, occupying the gaze rather than being subjected to it. You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down advances the visibility of pro-black, pro-hoe and pro-femme identity, supplanting deprivation with decadence, and strategically employing joy to resist historical scorn.
Jody Brand was born in Cape Town in 1989; she continues to live and work there. She has been documenting alternative African realities and created an online portal in 2011 called 'chomma'. Her work was selected for Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist's project 89+ recognising young innovators, and she participated in their presentation at Design Indaba in 2014. Group shows include Making Africa at Vitra Design Museum (2015) and Guggenheim Bilbao (2016); The Quiet Violence of Dreams at Stevenson (2016) and Being There at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris (2017). She is a 2017 recipient of a Thami Mnyele Foundation residency in Amsterdam.