Leaving Home | Virtual Exhibition

Mary Duker

This exhibition, which is structured as a series of visual chapters, is the product of a long period of practice based research. It focuses on the exploration of abandoned homes on two sites,oneruralandoneurban, in the Eastern Cape. The images and videos and installations of the spectral fragments and found objectsthatthehomemakersleftbehindthemhavebeen installed in a shifting and fluid assemblage that relates to the spaces in the Nelson Mandela University’s Bird Street Gallery. The works can be read as the material evidence of the research process, and as an autoethnographic creative response to the wordless stories that both the abandoned sites and the objects narrate and demand attention to.

For me the research process leading up to the exhibition provided a way to think about the complexities of what home means; home as a dream, as an ever illusive imaginary; as a site of [in]security, of [un]homeliness, of fear, of desire, of contentment. It was a way to reflect on what it means for women to have to leave the refuge of home, to abandon its four walls (whether willingly or unwillingly). Finally, it was a way to think visually about the nuanced, and oftentimes violent, gendered power relations of domesticity, and the women whose lives are impacted on by it.

This exhibition is about being at home but not at home, about the unhomely that underlies the homely and that reveals itself in the abandoned spaces. It’s about the spectres and the haunting and the thoughts that spending time in the ruins conjures up, and it is about leaving home and what it means. For me the abandoned home represents a kind of afterlife of domesticity. This is a place of melancholy, but for me it has also been the site of an unfolding, where (in the words of Deleuze and Guattari) the [artist]explorer can become other, can become nomad, can see the world with new eyes, and re-find her creative voice, and express “a becoming of  thought [that] cries out” (Deleuze,1995). Where the woman can become that which Virginia Woolf describes in A Room of One’s Own (2018), as “a vessel in which all sorts of spirits and forces are coursing and flashing perpetually.

Genre: Fine Art

Format: Multimedia

Ages: All ages

Duration: 8 – 31 July 2021



Eastern Cape born Mary Duker has recently returned to full time visual arts practice, after many years during which she juggled art making with studio teaching and lecturing at Nelson Mandela University, and with various management and administrative roles at department, school and faculty level.

Her main interest lies in the exploration of auto ethnographic entanglements and the complex and uneasy relationships between place, practice, history, and theory. She writes (albeit stiltedly), from a materialist feminist stand point, and she makes (with ever increasing enthusiasm).

Currently she is happily preoccupied with making, using a range of media including photography, video, and assemblages of excavated objects, in response to her ongoing and obsessive exploration in and around the ruins of abandoned homes.

More information:

041 504 3293

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