top of page

Homemade Prototypes

Zahraa Essa



Sarah De Villiers, Dr. Huda Tayob, Naadira Patel


18 - Hyperreal Prototypes


The creation of miniature scenarios dates to models found in ancient Egyptian tombs illustrating what daily life in Egypt was like. However, versions of 17th-century dollhouses in Northern Europe were small-scale replicas of the home it was situated in, as a display of wealth and social status. Thereafter dollhouses became a tool to teach young girls how to run a household and adopt traditionally gendered roles. The project uses the dollhouse as a prototype to navigate through the heteropatriarchal South African Indian Muslim home. To deconstruct its constituents and reveal the ‘hauntings’ (Gordon 2008) of the colonial legacy and wider influences from trade, empire, economic and societal changes.

The project recognizes home as an institution. Institutions require the labour of instituting to be produced and reproduced. The project, therefore, takes as its starting prompts different forms of domestic labour mentioned in the quote by Leslie Kanes Weisman (2002:2) “A homemaker has no inviolable space of her own. She is attached to spaces of service. She is a hostess in the living room, a cook in the kitchen, a mother in the children’s room, a lover in the bedroom, a chauffeur in the garage.” Focusing on four enactments in domestic space, namely: cooking, cleaning, childcare and décor the project investigates how domestic practices and the “arrangement of domestic space” (Evans 1978) reinforce issues of power dynamics, race, and gender.