Labour, love, or violence? Farieda Nazier’s Don’t Make Me Over (2021)

Hitting home: representations of the domestic milieu in feminist art

Keywords: labour, love, gender-based violence, Don’t Make Me Over, Farieda Nazier, South African femininity


Don’t Make Me Over (2021) is a videographic piece by South African artist Farieda Nazier comprising performance, music, poetry, curated settings, and sculptural assemblages, which forms part of her Post(erity) Project. The title—Don’t Make Me Over—is based on the 1962 song of the same name originally recorded by Dionne Warwick and later covered by Sybil in 1987. While an integral and fundamental component of the work, the artist emphasises that her interpretation of the popular hit is not a music video. Throughout this article, I discuss how Nazier enacts scenes of both compliance and defiance against the conflation of femininity and the domestic milieu, and the embodied violence of patriarchal norms dictating feminine ‘beauty’ and behaviours—the former exasperated by a history of racialised oppression and unequal power relationships in South Africa, which further conflate blackness with labour, but particularly domestic labour. Moreover, I examine how the video implies an abusive relationship dynamic in which the female subject appears entangled, set against the backdrop of The Forge theatre in Johannesburg, thereby implying the masquerade of gender identity and emphasising the narrative quality of the work as a whole.