The character, Sophie, a domestic worker who is invariably deeply immersed in fantasy,
appears throughout Mary Sibande’s oeuvre (ranging from Long Live the Dead Queen
(2009), to the series, The Purple Shall Govern (2013, 2014)). Sophie is employed by the
artist in order to engage with patriarchal and apartheid representations of black femininity,
where it is particularly Sophie’s body which registers the traumatic impact of these systems.
We contend that Sibande’s portrayal of Sophie, where she is continually engaged in fantasy
and articulates trauma at the site of the body, is consistent with hysterical representation.
Our interpretation of hysteria is derived from the feminist understanding thereof, where it
is not understood as a form of pathology, but rather as a mode of representation which
allows the subject to articulate repressed traumatic knowledge and repressed desire in a
negotiated manner, from within the confines of an oppressive system. Hysteria is understood
as involving the representation of repressed traumatic knowledge and repressed desire
through fantasy and the body.