“The same but not quite”:

Respectability, creative agencies and selfexpression in black middle-class Soweto homes

  • Shonisani Netshia Lecturer, Department of Visual Art, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg.
Keywords: Soweto, homemakers, crocheted doilies, respectability, cultural hybridity, domestic worker


In this article, I explore notions of South African black middle-class respectability, focusing on the use of crocheted doilies by two homemakers in Naledi Extension 2, Soweto, Johannesburg – my mother, Geneva Maphangwa and Mam’ Ramuhulu. I explore their use of crocheted doilies as a means of decorating their homes, upholding status, and presenting themselves and their families as respectable. I regard crocheted doilies as metaphoric connectors, linking maternal generations, as well as signifiers of respectability. I also highlight how my mother’s and Mam’ Ramuhulu’s preoccupation with maintaining good status, cleanliness and order is linked to a form of respectability that is embedded with notions of good moral standing.