EX­HI­BI­TIONS LIFT LID ON GEN­DER-BASED VI­O­LENCE

The Sunday Independent - - News - LUKE FOLB What I am, I am Enough is Enough Still Fig­ur­ing Out What It Means to be a Man,

ONE IN four women is in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship in South Africa, and ev­ery six days a woman is mur­dered by her part­ner. Ev­ery 25 sec­onds, a woman or girl is raped.

Shock­ing statis­tics have led to gen­der-based move­ments hit­ting main­stream dis­cus­sions, not only in South Africa, but across the globe.

A new ex­hi­bi­tion this month aims to strike back against gen­der-based vi­o­lence. The Iziko Slave Lodge in the Com­pany’s Gar­den in Cape Town has cu­rated three ex­hibits to form their Gen­der Ex­hi­bi­tion aimed at cre­at­ing aware­ness around gen­der­based and sex­ual vi­o­lence, chal­leng­ing stig­mas re­lated to sex work and con­fronting hege­monic ideals of mas­culin­ity.

The ex­hi­bi­tions are be­ing held in col­lab­o­ra­tion with 1000 Women’s Trust, the Sex Work­ers Ed­u­ca­tion & Ad­vo­cacy Task­force (SWEAT), An­to­nia Porter and Gio­vanna del Santo.

It was co­in­ci­dence that Iziko was ap­proached at the same time to host all three ex­hibits and found it ap­pro­pri­ate to launch them in April to co­in­cide with Free­dom Month. The first is an ex­hi­bi­tion

which ex­plores the le­gal­i­sa­tion of sex work­ers and the history of the Slave Lodge as an un­of­fi­cial “slave brothel”.

The lodge’s lo­ca­tion and history make it a prom­i­nent point of dis­cus­sion for the lived ex­pe­ri­ences of sex work­ers in Cape Town today.

Sex work­ers who took part in the ex­hi­bi­tion form part of a fem­i­nist col­lec­tive at SWEAT and were taught how to doc­u­ment their lives by pho­tog­ra­pher Irene Grobbe­laar-Leno­ble and writer Amy Kaye.

Once they had the skills, they went into their com­mu­ni­ties to take pic­tures and write their sto­ries. They be­came the sub­ject of the work it­self.

Gavin Ja­cobs, a gay male sex worker and one of the sub­jects, said hese sto­ries were “straight from the horse’s mouth” and formed part of the cam­paign to de­crim­i­nalise sex work.

“It’s about get­ting over those stig­ma­tised norms and also shows that I, as a male, can also be a fem­i­nist and con­trib­ute to pos­i­tive change. We’re break­ing the pa­tri­ar­chal struc­tures and it’s great that th­ese three (ex­hi­bi­tions) just over­lapped,” he said.

fo­cuses on the in­di­vid­ual sto­ries of women who have faced abuse and vi­o­lence through the 1000 Women 1 Voice cam­paign.

The pro­ject was borne out of the writ­ing pro­ject, “Ev­ery Scar Tells A Story”, which ran dur­ing last year’s 16 Days of Ac­tivism for No Vi­o­lence against Women and Chil­dren cam­paign.

The ex­hi­bi­tion in­vites peo­ple to get to grips with the statis­tics and chal­lenges fac­ing them to say “enough is enough”.

The fi­nal ex­hi­bi­tion in the trio,

is a mul­ti­me­dia pro­ject con­cep­tu­alised af­ter an in­crease in gen­der-based and sex­ual vi­o­lence per­pe­trated by men.

It ex­plores the ex­pe­ri­ences of six mid­dle-class men in their 20s and 30s who are asked to an­swer how they see them­selves against so­ci­ety.

Over­all, the ex­hi­bi­tion con­sid­ers what man­hood and mas­culin­ity mean in a con­tem­po­rary South African set­ting.

Curt Sys­ter, who took part in the pro­ject, em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of men act­ing as role mod­els for other men to break the cul­ture.

“It speaks for it­self. There are beau­ti­ful pic­tures and sto­ries. The prob­lem a lot of the time is men and also the so­lu­tion can be men. We need to be good, and strong mas­cu­line fig­ures, and not in the old sense, but be an as­pi­ra­tional fig­ure for other men,” said Sys­ter.

PIC­TURE: NIGEL PAMPLIN

‘I am What I am’, an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Iziko Slave Lodge in Cape Town, aims to cre­ate aware­ness around the stigma re­lated to sex work through the ex­pe­ri­ences of sex work­ers.

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