Breaking the ‘Law of the Father’: Linda Rademan’s transgressive engagements with Afrikaner patriarchy in the home

Hitting home: representations of the domestic milieu in feminist art

Keywords: Linda Rademan, Afrikaner Patriarchy, Feminism, Sewing/Embroidery as Art


Artist, Linda Rademan, was born in the mid-1950s in an Afrikaans home where ‘the law of the father’ pertained in all matters. She has professed ambivalence about her upbringing, which was circumscribed by an Afrikaner Nationalist ideology, underpinned by patriarchal dominance, and strictly conformed to the narrow Calvinistic precepts of the Dutch Reformed Church. In her work, memories of childhood and family dynamics are employed to expose the stranglehold of religious expectations, the permeation of male privilege, and the suppression of women’s voices in Afrikaner culture.

In this paper, I analyse selected works in which Rademan has intervened in photographic memorabilia by embroidering and sewing or ‘suturing’ areas of her work. The use of sewing and embroidery has been employed as a feminist strategy since the early 1970s, and I argue that its use here not only aims to overturn the patriarchal hierarchy of artmaking but is an attempt to visually mend (suture) the psychologically damaging aspects of Rademan’s childhood upbringing. In this way, her approach becomes a therapeutic means to engage with the painful process of self-integration, as well as a vehicle to redress the exclusion of women’s voices in her family and culture by presenting an alternative image of Afrikaans womanhood.