An Abandoned Saint and Other Forgotten Stories | Jill Joubert

Thu, May 10, 2018 to Thu, June 7, 2018

SMITH is delighted to present an exhibition of sculpture by Jill Joubert titled An Abandoned Saint and Other Forgotten Stories, her typically whimsical and inimitable take on weighty themes such as gender, death and resurrection.

This collection continues her preoccupation with sacred European and African spiritualism as well as creation stories and folklore. Formerly a founding member of the Handspring Puppet Company, Joubert is a former principal of the Peter Clarke Art Centre and a Masters graduate from the Michaelis School of Fine Art. This is Joubert’s second solo show at SMITH following 2016’s The Invasion by Stately Queens Come to
Rescue Princesses Trapped in Four Impenetrable Towers.

Joubert works with wood, but none of her material is cut down or bought. In this collection are pieces of yellowwood, jacaranda, beech and a
rosewood that were either found on her daily walks in the forest, donated by friends and family or salvaged.

By taking these bits of so-called “dead wood” and resuscitating them, Joubert gives new life and meaning to her material and asks: When is something dead? Joubert’s figures are reborn as mixed gender, animalhuman hybrids, free of any categorical associations.

“There is something deeply exciting about cleaning a piece of wood and finding what is hidden. It’s almost archaeological,” says Joubert. This resurrection and liberation from set identity sees her figures captured in various postures of unbridled ecstasy. In the case of her series titled Liberated Spirits Riding the Lethe, Joubert casts the figures as dancers adorned with isidanga - long turquoise beads representing wisdom in Xhosa culture. The Lethe is the ‘river of forgetfulness’ in the Ancient Greek underworld, from which souls drink to wash away all memory of their previous life before taking new embodiment.

The abandoned Saint in her title is St Wilgefortis, a female saint of popular religious imagination who became an androgynous icon. Her legend arose in the 14th century when various theories attempted to explain the image of Christ depicted as a bearded female. Wilgefortis was
revered chiefly by women seeking relief from tribulations and confining

Joubert’s inclusion of the ancient story of an androgynous Christ - and most strikingly with her figure Eurynome Recalled who is both male and female - speaks to the notion that classification can be stifling. “We are all interconnected. What we call male and female are boundaries that we’ve constructed. My figures are cast in a state that is pre-identity, pre-labelling.” says Joubert.

Accompanying the works will be selected texts giving insight into the stories, drawing from a wide religious, spiritual and mythological landscape including Adam and Eve, Jacob’s Ladder and the Patron Saint of Ecology, St Francis of Assisi.

An Abandoned Saint and Other Forgotten Stories will show from 10 May until 7 June 2018. For press enquiries and to request further material, please contact Jana Terblanche at