In the 1960s and ‘70s, the Winky Doll – a plastic inflatable toy, imported from America – became very popular in South Africa. Her eyes appeared to blink as you moved her and, when inflated, her arms would encircle your arm and hold on. The Winky Doll was “black” – her image based on an exaggerated, racist and stereotyped idea of what black girls look like.
In 1992, Wayne Barker cast a bronze sculpture shaped like the Winky Doll, and painted her to look exactly like the doll itself. Apart from being bronze – and therefore extremely heavy compared to the almost weightless real doll – it was impossible to tell them apart. Barker made a replica of something that some people had seen as merely a child’s toy, but that others saw as a deeply offensive racial stereotype.
The objects on this page look like replicas of commonly available consumer products. But, unlike Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes, they are not recreations in a different material, nor are they made at a different scale. Instead they are actual products. But Barker has hand-painted them in oil paint – to precisely match their already printed surfaces. Tiny plastic characters have been placed on or next to them, their tiny scale turning the grocery items into gigantic, building-sized objects that completely overwhelm the “humans”.
Talk About This
Why would Barker laboriously hand paint a surface with precisely the images and words that are already printed on it?
Why did Barker make an almost exact replica in bronze? Bronze is a traditional sculptural material in the western world. He is using it to replicate a cheap plastic toy. What comment was Barker making, do you think, with this sculpture? What was he saying about his society?