The art of labour: Representations of childbirth by Reshada Crouse and Christine Dixie

Hitting home: representations of the domestic milieu in feminist art

Keywords: Reshada Crouse, Christine Dixie, representations of childbirth, birthing tray, representations of caesarean


Since the mid-1980s, there have been numerous instances of South African women ar tists representing pregnancy or making works reflecting on motherhood. A representation of the birth process itself is, however, unusual. In this article, the focus is placed on two women artists who have used this atypical subject matter. Reshada Crouse represented the birth of her first child in Danielle and Me and Danielle in 1975, returning to the theme many years later in Homo Sapien – Spiritual Animal (2021). Christine Dixie represented childbirth in a large body of art entitled Parturient Prospects, which she started in 2005 while pregnant with her second child and completed after the birth in 2006. She, too, returned to the theme later, using the matrices of her Birthing Tray works from the Parturient Prospects project to make The Harbingers in 2016 and adding varnish, colour, and cotton stitches to one of the sets of prints making up the Birthing Tray series in 2022. It is suggested that, for both artists, the theme enabled feminist responses to practices of childbirth as well as other formative moments in their lives. It is also suggested that both artists respond to discourses from the West, but in different ways. While Crouse positions her art as offering a parallel but female point of view to male ‘masters’ whose works have had an impact on her, Dixie suggests a commonality between early modern discourses about childbirth and those to do with the colonisation of Africa.