Catherine Anyango, Sanctuaries, soap on paper, 2013
© Ben Blossom
Anyango uses soap to recreate the tiled surfaces of female 'sanctuaries' such as bathrooms and kitchens. Exploiting the fact that soap distorts on exposure, an image at first domestic and benign reveals a malign cartography in the manner of Snow's famous map. A space of characteristic cleanliness is revealed as the hidden sanctuary for invisible pathogens: cleansing bubbles double as unhealthy blisters. A product typically used to purify is subverted, symbolising the devastating traces of cholera's impact on the skin as it shrivels and cracks from dehydration.
All the evidence proving the communication of cholera through the medium of water, confirms that with which I set out, of its communication in the crowded habitations of the poor, in coal mines and other places by the hands getting soiled with the evacuations of the patients, and by small quantities of these evacuations being swallowed with the food, as paint is swallowed by house painters of uncleanly habits, who contract lead-colic in this way'
—John Snow, On the mode of communication of cholera, 1855. p.111