Title: Plastic Crowns
Photographs and texts: Phumzile Khanyile
Graphic design: Sara Murrone
Editorial supervision: Giulia Brivio
Edition: 250 copies
Dimensions: 21.5 x 18 cm
Publisher: Artphilein Editions, Lugano
Year of publication: 2022
This book is the Winner of the De Pietri Artphilein Foundation Photobook Project Contest 2019.
“Plastic Crowns started with me trying to see my grandmother’s house differently by stealing moments to photograph myself while my she was at church. What would happen if I recreated myself? What would it be like if I really looked like the girl my grandmother says I am. I wanted to create a family album that reflected my lived experience and especially to stick up a middle finger to it.
Plastic Crowns stems from the idea of taking a perceived “prestigious” ornament such as a royal or beauty pageant crown and turning it into an object that anyone can purchase and thus enthrone themselves. I explore beyond the tragic boundaries of what my grandmother would consider a “good woman”, probing stereotypical ideas of gender, sexual preference and related stigmas and their relevance in contemporary society. I am interested in how having multiple partners (balloons) can be an expression of choice as opposed to it being an indicator of low morality, based on societal conventions. […] Placing headscarves and a chiffon dress over my camera mimicked the feeling of film, but also allowed me to view the space differently, disrupted, which echoed what I already felt.”
Plastic Crowns was created from a desperate need to be heard, to escape and to transform. While creating another project around her neighbourhood Phumzile was attacked at knife point by 5 boys not far from her house, they took everything and the work created would never see the light of day. She became extremely paranoid, scared and could not leave the gates of her grandmother’s house, this was also particularly hard because this very house she found herself confined in had its own secrets and stories of extreme emotional and mental abuse that no one knew about.