Sarah Britten Art

Paintings in lipstick


This was an exhibition waiting to happen.

The moment I heard the word “fire pool” back in December 2013, I thought: I want to paint that. I work predominantly in red and black, enjoy tackling political themes, and I’ve been painting swimming pools since 2012.

Almost all of the work here is political in orientation to some extent, whether I’m dealing with Nkandla or gender-based violence. I could write essays on all of these topics, but somehow painting them makes more sense.

The central part of the exhibition is the 8 A2 panels which form one large work, but are exhibited separately, on opposite walls in the gallery,  for practical reasons. The top 4 panels representing the sky are a reference to the legacies of colonialism. The bottom 4 panels represent the firepool.

The top 4 panels are titled Murmuration and feature references to chickens coming home to roost as well as colonialism. Murmuration is associated with the European Starling, a species brought to the Cape by Cecil John Rhodes. The text in this work consists of quotes from an Achille Mbembe essay on the postcolony. The birds were painted in ink before the colour was overlaid. 

I’ve also used ink in the bottom 4 panels, which represent the fire pool itself. The creatures in the depths are  things with teeth: crocodiles, Zambezi sharks, tiger fish (which, incidentally, were recently witnessed  catching birds swooping in to drink). The quotes are all from the Public Protector’s report on Nkandla.

20% of of sales will be donated to Home of Hope, an NGO I’ve raised funds for since 2012. Mam’ Khanyi takes in vulnerable girls and gives them an opportunity for a completely different future. Find out more at

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