VB South Sudan is the latest project by Vanessa Beecroft, which began last year during the artist’s journey to Sudan. Compared to the icy expressionless models which we have come to expect from the artist during her work over the last decade, the subjects of these images bear many resemblances to the Christian iconography of the past. Indeed, in some photos, Beecroft is portrayed as a white Madonna, with two small twins – Madit and Mongor - at her breast. The image draws on a repertoire of popular iconography and relates to the direct experience of Beecroft who, during her three visits to Sudan, spent most of her time in the local orphanage where she breast-fed the black twins. The other photos also display images that belong to a typology with clearly Christian roots: a black pregnant Madonna, a black woman with two children on her lap, a black crucified Christ, a Holy Family made up of a blond Madonna and black Joseph and child. In these works, as in her previous projects, one can detect her unceasing efforts to achieve perfection in the images. The photos all have great formal equilibrium and reflect the constant attention paid to the arrangement of the figures. In the photo showing the woman with the children on her lap, there is a clear chromatic contrast between the bright red of the cloak and the dark skin of the woman and the children. Here too, as in all the artist’s other works, colors play an essential role in the arrangement of the scene.
Formal equilibrium is achieved through the precisely central position of the chair/throne on which the woman is seated, whereas the poverty of the bare walls presents a stark contrast with the majestic grandeur of the figures. The same obsession with compositional relationships can also be seen in the pregnant woman who occupies almost the entire height of the space of the photo and is placed at the center. On the one hand, the image of the white Madonna with the two black children can be considered to be emblematic of ethnic supremacy while, on the other hand, due to the act of love she is performing, it can also be construed as the symbol of the universal union between two peoples.