n Image & Text : a Journal for Design - “The same but not quite” : respectability, creative agencies and self-expression in black middle-class Soweto homes

Volume 29 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1020-1491


In this article, I explore notions of South African black middle-class respectability, focusing on the use of crocheted doilies by two homemakers in Naledi Extension 2, Soweto, Johannesburg – my mother, Geneva Maphangwa and Mam’ Ramuhulu. I explore their use of crocheted doilies as a means of decorating their homes, upholding status, and presenting themselves and their families as respectable. I regard crocheted doilies as metaphoric connectors, linking maternal generations, as well as signifiers of respectability. I also highlight how my mother’s and Mam’ Ramuhulu’s preoccupation with maintaining good status, cleanliness and order is linked to a form of respectability that is embedded with notions of good moral standing.

In examining the roles that Victorian lace and its contemporary derivative, crocheted doilies, play in colonial and post-colonial contexts, I identify the Victorian era as the possible origin of using crocheted doilies to cover surfaces. I unpack how the Victorian impulse to decorate every available surface could be a forerunner of way in which doilies are used in my mother’s and Mam’ Ramuhulu’s homes. Homi K Bhabha’s (1994) notions of desire, the displacing gaze and mimicry, are applied and used as connective devices throughout the article.

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