Willemien de Villiers

Willemien de Villiers


I am a South African artist and writer, living and working in Muizenberg, Cape Town.

I was born during the very repressed era of Apartheid. Growing up in a completely segregated and separated community, rooted in me a longing for connection and integration; something I continue to seek for in my art making.

With hindsight, I now realise that the secret, unseen world of all living matter – first glimpsed under the microscope in my 10th grade biology class – provided an alternative narrative to the one I was living: on a microscopic level, everything is connected.

I am still drawn to that which lies below the surface; hidden, obscured. I find the secret, pulsating world of plants especially inspiring; their relentless drive to procreate and thrive – or sometimes merely survive – is so similar to ours.

Sewing by hand demands patience and time. It is a form of meditation. A devotional act. It creates an emotional space to connect with memories, dreams, the day’s news, a friend’s tragedy. My current themes explore the issues of intimate partner violence, gender identity, misogyny and patriarchy.

While stitching, I feel connected to all the individuals, I assume mostly women, who have worked on the cloth before me. I like to imagine their circumstances and stories. Whether they were willing workers/embroiderers, or whether they were resentful and working from a sense of duty. The act of stitching can be a violent one – needles are very sharp – and indeed, blood sometimes flows. Whenever I accidentally prick myself, I always let the drops seep into the cloth I’m busy with, adding one more stain to the collective memory it carries.

Cape Town, South Africa



Workshops: No
Talks: No
Commissions: Yes