Marlene Dumas

The Question of Human Pink


I don’t know much about colour really
I use it intuitively.

I don’t know much about racism really
my knowledge is skin deep.

What do you mean, he said.
Oh, she said, didn’t you know all scars have a pink that shows.

The Exotic versus the Neurotic

The Dutch, among others, pay
homage they say
by buying African art, by trying to paint
like them.
I cannot do that
I pay in other ways.

All the white artists want to be black.
I can’t pretend I’m not
stuck with snow white
as my name.

Sexual Organs

Between the motif and the traces
of the hand
falls the shadow.


To create an artwork
(to make an image of)
and to give birth
(to an other human being)
have essentially nothing to do
with one another.
Yet this is no reason to stop loving
metaphors or avoiding the unrelated.
But the poetry that results from mixing
different kinds of language,
disappears into sloppy thinking,
when we imagine that these
differences can ever be solved
harmoniously; or even worse, when
we forget that these realities we are
mixing, show a beautiful and often
cruel indifference towards each other.

The Question of Human Pink. Originally published in The Question of Human Pink (cat.), Kunsthalle Bern, 1989, p.18, 28, 34, 48; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, first edition Galerie Paul Andriesse and De Balie Publishers Amsterdam, 1998; and second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.