Being Mammy
by Harold Offeh

A still of a portrait of a man looking out towards the camera dressed as a mammy


  • 12 minute extract from Mammy's Looks


  • 1Being Mammy installed at Aspex, Portsmouth, UK
  • 2Photograph from Being Mammy
  • 3Being Mammy installed at Aspex, Portsmouth, UK
  • 4Being Mammy installed at Chapter, Cardiff, UK
  • 5Being Mammy installed at Chapter, Cardiff, UK

Video still from Being Mammy


Being Mammy is an attempt to explore the world of the ‘Mammy’ caricature and evoke the tragedy of the talented typecast actor doomed to recreate and replay the same role.

Being Mammy is 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 is an attempt to engage 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.



Year 2004
Duration Various
Medium Multi-screen video installation
Original format DV
Screening format MPEG-2 DVD
Aspect ratio 4:3
Audio Various
Colour / B&W Colour


Commissioned as part of Ghosting. Supported by Arts Council England

Screening history:

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

Related Items:

2003 - 2006

Ghosting developed in response to the growth of contemporary artists’ interest in archives.

Harold Offeh

Harold Offeh has worked with Picture This to develop new works, devise programmes and to select Small Wonders artists.