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A Monument to the 'Other'

Part 2 Project 2013
Rosa Couloute
University of Greenwich, UK
Despite Western Architecture’s belief that it continues to challenge the environments we inhabit, the topic of female postcolonial spatial design has remained under-researched. These spaces are at best trivialised as internal domestic habitats, or at worst, ignored as having little relevance in post-modern times. By applying postcolonial feminist theory alongside fine art and architectural discourses around postcolonial aesthetics, my project seeks to investigate how women of postcolonial nations re-colonise their spaces.

From 1958, my grandmother began to recolonise her new positioning within Britain through the elaborate curating of her Front room. Her selections included pieces of furniture, such as a three-piece suite; ornaments such as a porcelain tiger and globe cocktail cabinet. These items do not celebrate her British status with the flying of flags or images of great statesman. Instead theses objects demarcate foreign locations, juxtaposing themes and adopted perceptions; creating a distinctive Imperialist taste.

Exploring the British Empire captured within my grandmothers Front room, a tool case complete with specialist drawing and measuring implements was created to compose an atlas of this Empire. Emulating the Victorian science of mensuration, the apparatuses suggest the idea of manipulation through ‘measure’ as they are designed in order to draw and legitimise imperialist and questionably invisible boundaries as a measure of (wo)mans conquest and 'Her-story'.

Leaving the comfort of my grandmothers Front Room I turned my attention to Saartjie Baartman, the Hottentot Venus, a universal and historic symbol of colonialism. Appling tools from the Front Room to measurements taken of Baartman by French zoologist Georges Cuvier, I deconstructed Cuvier’s derogative descriptions and imagery of her, replacing them with an elaborate process of decoding.

Placing Baartman’s body on the fracture line of Hyde Park, her vagina becomes the pivoting point for dispersing her body across the park like satellites. Her areola, haunches, vagina, height and arms, orbiting Albert’s memorial. Breaking down and rebuilding Baartman’s body, rids her of the status of 'Other', and instead, elevates her standing within the landscape and terrain of postcolonial histories. No longer spectacle, but ‘a Monument to the Other’.

Rosa Couloute


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