Baby Doll, series number 10 (from a series of 12)

Senzeni Marasela, South African, born 1977



Six digital prints on mat archival paper


Image: 15 3/4 × 23 9/16 in. (40 × 59.9 cm)

Sheet: 19 × 26 in. (48.2 × 66 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Charles F. Vernick 1936 Fund

© Senzeni Marasela



Place Made: South Africa, Southern Africa, Africa


21st century

Object Name


Research Area



Not on view


(10): signed and dated, in graphite, lower right: Senzeni M. Marasela '06; inscribed in graphite, lower left: 1/3


Senzeni Marasela’s work often relates to her complicated relationship with her mother, who was frequently absent and “never a place of comfort, but always a stranger.” As a child, Marasela was sent to boarding school to avoid the violence and atrocities experienced by many black South Africans under apartheid. Her mother migrated to Johannesburg to work as a domestic servant, and later was hospitalized due to depression and drug addiction. Baby Doll can be understood broadly as a response to childhood trauma and loss—individual and systemic—and represents the ways dolls can be used to expresses complex emotional experiences.

This photograph is part of a series in which the artist dismembers a black baby doll. The violence challenges stereotypes of women (and girls) as motherly, nurturing caretakers. The doll’s disturbingly realistic facial expressions convey happiness, trust, confusion, and fear, while the artist’s own body is always fragmented.

From the 2019 exhibition All Dolled Up, curated by Amelia Kahl, Barbara C. & Harvery P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming


A Black baby doll against bright green grass is captured as it unravels—or perhaps, as it is sewn together. Senzeni Marasela gestures toward the uncertainty and violence of being a Black child growing up under South African Apartheid. These photographs are from a series of twelve, each of which pictures the doll at a point of deconstruction. The ripped-apartness mirrors the artist’s own childhood: she was sent to a boarding school to avoid Apartheid atrocities and her mother was sent to be a domestic worker in a white household, a fate of many Black women during the era. There is certainly a feminist politic and emotional release being generated in the tearing apart of the doll. What does it mean to unpack, or dismantle, the symbols of one’s childhood?

From the 2023 exhibition Homecoming: Domesticity and Kinship in Global African Art, curated by Alexandra Thomas, Curatorial Research Associate

Course History

GEOG 72.01/AAAS 67.50/WGSS 66.09, Black Consciousness Black Feminism, Abby Neely, Spring 2022

First Year Student Enrichment Program – Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Colleen Lannon, Summer 2023

First Year Student Enrichment Program - Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Mokhtar Bouba, Summer 2023

Philosophy 1.11, Art: True, Beautiful, Nasty, John Kulvicki, Summer 2023

Writing 2.05, Why Write, Anyway?, Erkki Mackey, Fall 2023

Writing 5.24, Photographic Representations, Amanda Wetsel, Fall 2023

Writing 5.25, Photographic Representations, Amanda Wetsel, Fall 2023

Anthropology 31.01, Women's Gender, and Sexuality Studies 36.01, Gender in Cross Cultural Perspectives, Sabrina Billings, Fall 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Exhibition History

All Dolled Up, Alvin P. Gutman Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, May 11-August 11, 2019.

Homecoming: Domesticity and Kinship in Global African Art, Harteveldt Family Gallery, Owen Robertson Cheatham Gallery, and Northeast Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, July 22, 2023–May 25, 2024.

Publication History

Brian P. Kennedy and Emily Shubert Burke, Modern and Contemporary Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2009 p.209, no.275.


The artist; Axis Gallery, West Orange, New Jersey; sold to present collection, 2008.

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