Aspex Portsmouth

Being Mammy, Harold Offeh

Being Mammy explored the world of the ‘Mammy’ caricature and evoked the tragedy of the talented typecast actor doomed to recreate and replay the same role.

Being Mammy was the culmination of a research project working with sources from the Bill Douglas Centre at the University of Exeter. Harold Offeh examined the life and career of actress Hattie McDaniel, who famously played and won an Oscar for her role as ‘Mammy’ in Gone With the Wind. 

Late in her career McDaniel was singled out by civil rights activists for perpetuating negative stereotypes; her response was the aforementioned quote, which Offeh sees as central to the construction of Being Mammy: it is filled with the pathos of a woman trapped by a stereotype. As a viewer you are confronted by repeated images of the character. The work examines the relationships between role-play, stereotyping and identity through an installation combining performance video works contextualised by artefacts, posters and other ephemera. 

The objects were developed from the artist’s research into the ‘Mammy’ caricature. Starting with historical artefacts and memorabilia, in the course of his research Offeh found websites and fan clubs made recently by fans of Mammy. Offeh was interested in this contemporary audience for Mammy , and the range of domestic objects being manufactured for collectors. Being Mammy engaged with the cultish and commercial reproduction of the stereotype. In a series of Sewing Bee’s hosted by Mammy with invited guests, various objects were made for the exhibition. 

Previous Exhibitions of Being Mammy 

  • 2009 Fruit Cakes and Furry Collars, Bridge House B&B, Skibbereen, Co. Cork 2009 At Your Service, David Roberts Art Foundation, London, UK, 
  • 2008 Being Mammy, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden 
  • 2007 Hybrid Narratives, Akbank Sanat, Istanbul, Turkey 
  • 03 June – 25 June 2006 A Bond, Bristol, UK 
  • 18 February – 01 April 2006 Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham, UK 
  • 26 November 2005 – 08 January 2006 Chapter, Cardiff, UK 
  • 27 November 2004 – 15 January 2005 Aspex, Portsmouth, UK