To summarise Tschabalala Self’s work in a word: it is unapologetic. Her use of multiple materials, collage techniques and the fact that some images are abstract and not immediately comprehensible all attest to her understanding of the black female body as complex and necessarily multifaceted rather than monolithic.
Self speaks back to and resists voyeurism, countering the narrative of the black female body as being for consumption by her bold, audacious displays. Her work manages to reverse the gaze that is often projected upon black bodies which is often both of desire and disgust. She does this through images which are striking and irreverent, and possible to perceive as even confrontational or provocative.
Yet while Self’s project is indubitably political, as is all art, her works feels like an inside conversation between those who are directly implicated by the issues of race, gender and sexuality that she contends with. In other words, her images do not seek necessarily to actively prove, confound or explain anything – for this would subscribe to the problematic idea that the black female body requires defence, explanation or excuse. Instead, her work simply is.