Tschabalala Self sculpture defaced

An image posted on the artist’s Instagram. Courtesy Meta

Tschabalala Self’s Seated (2022) was defaced last week when vandals spray painted the 10-foot sculpture’s Black skin white. Of the attack, Self said in a statement: ‘I am very disheartened that my sculpture Seated was targeted and attacked by vandals. Despite my disappointment I am not surprised as Black, female – and especially Black female bodies – are often targets for abuse. Seated proudly represents the beauty of both blackness and femininity, and for these very reasons she has been harmed: covered by her assailant with white spray paint in a futile attempt to erase her colour and, in my mind, her strength.’

Seated was initially unveiled at King’s Cross in London, but moved to its current temporary location at the De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, United Kingdom. The sculpture depicts a Black woman donning a yellow hat, dress and boots, who twists in her seat to look at the sea. The sculpture is Self’s first public artwork, commissioned by Avant Art, and a dedication to ‘simple joy’. Yet, this violence, Self writes, ‘illuminates the persistent issues plaguing the global West. Painting the skin of my sculpture white is an obscene act and I feel horribly for individuals in Bexhill-on-Sea for whom this event may have shocked or frightened.’

The vandalism has been interpreted as a racist and misogynistic attack on Black women. However, over the weekend, over 300 volunteers helped clean the sculpture in an anti-racist act of resistance and solidarity. The De la Warr Pavilion provided scrubbing brushes and white spirit, but restorers and conservators will be brought in to clean the sculpture in preparation for its re-unveiling on 3 June.

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