Textiles of Exile: There’s more to than what meets the eye.

When I first walked through the Textiles of Exile exhibit, I admired the panorama of
colorful images and embroidery. It wasn’t until I read the booklet that I became aware of the
gruesome stories that inspired these pieces. Coming from a partially South African household, I
became immediately attached to the embroidery pieces made by South African women affected
by apartheid. The story of Z.N Sibanela’s piece immediately caught my attention. My father
grew up on a farm near Durban and often told us stories about Durban. Thirteen years ago, in
Durban, South Africa, Sibanela’s mother was entering the home where she worked when she was
attacked by her employer’s dogs. Her employer did nothing and the dogs viciously ripped off her
mother’s arms and ears. Sibanela’s mother left with a great deal of pain and was entered into a
hospital where she died an agonizing death.

Although my father’s tales were often amusing, his life was not shielded from apartheid
and its aftermath. A few years before Sibanela’s mother was killed, my uncle was robbed and
murdered. Along with Sibanela’s story, my uncle’s tragic passing makes me continue to hope
for a better, more harmonious South Africa.

-Lerato Tsotetsi, Gregg Museum Spring Intern 2012

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  • North Carolina State University

  • ARTS NC State

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