Domestic Bliss

This portrait series represents a continuing theme and focus within my personal work investigating inequality and race politics in Cape Town, South Africa. The women featured in this portraiture essay are domestic workers employed in homes in an area known as the ‘Southern Suburbs’ in Cape Town.

Since the end of apartheid there has been very little socio-economic redress in South Africa, wealth and privilege are still very much held by a small white minority to the exclusion of the majority of black South Africans. Based on my personal experience growing up within this inherently privileged community I hope to bring focus onto the role these woman play in the domestic spaces in post-apartheid South Africa. The nature of their employment and the presence of a full time domestic worker is perceived as the normal standard by many of their employers.

The Southern Suburbs is an affluent area in Cape Town, where the majority of the residents are white. The people living in this area represent a privileged and exclusive sector of South African society, their position is in stark contrast with the everyday experience of the majority of South Africans. Thus it is these people whom they employ to care for their homes and families who offer a much better insight into the harsh realities of post apartheid South Africa.

In many instances these women fill the traditional role reserved for the mother within these homes, they work full time and often live on the same property, cooking, cleaning and caring for the children in the house. It is not uncommon for a domestic worker to be referred to as part of the family, despite the fact that their sole role within these spaces is still limited to that of an employee, and many women employed as domestic workers have their own families. Thus the boundaries between a traditional employer and employee are largely blurred in these instances, meaning their role within these homes and their presence within the spaces is a highly complex one. I hope that these images might prompt viewers to consider the ‘normality’ of being a white family with a full time domestic worker.

I hoped to focus on the inherent inequality of a black domestic worker’s position in modern say South Africa. By photographing them in separate spaces within their employer’s homes in an attempt to suggest a sense of alienation and displacement associated with their roles within these intimate spaces. Their uniforms serving as a visual reminder of their largely limited role within these families and the domestic spaces.