Manuela Gray is an internationally acclaimed tattoo artist who has also exhibited as a fine artist, extending her interest in body marking to engage with a wide range of traditional and non-traditional surfaces and marking techniques.
The Number project comprises a film that documents the history, personal journeys, codes and body markings of South Africa’s Number prison gangs. The project also includes prints, a book and a series of hand-stitched photographs. Manuela was drawn to the marks of South Africa’s Number gangs by their raw power. In them she saw marks made with directness – a bluntness even – that were less for decorative effect than to communicate power in a secret code spelt out and spoken across the bodies of the inmates.
In the artworks, Manuela weaves her own layer of meaning, engaging with the iconography of the Number through the ‘feminine’ art of sewing. This maternal gesture and breaking of the surface of the images invites a new reading.