A group of artists working in photography, film, performance and visual art have united to honour the lives of girls and women who have been lost to rape and murder in South Africa. Under the exhibition title We Cannot Be Silent, the creative collective is looking beyond news headlines, delving into personal spaces and aiming to sensitise audiences to the impact of rape and murder.
We Cannot Be Silent questions women’s safety, whether at home or when they make their way home on the streets of central Cape Town. This exhibition is a creative expression of concern from artists who see themselves and their work as part of the solution to ongoing abuse that girls and women face.
We Cannot Be Silent opens on 9 August 2017 at 11am at the Castle of Good Hope. At the opening, Jazzart Dance Theatre will perform excerpts from Our Women, a dance piece that takes the audience through the many journeys a woman walks in life, as a stark reminder of how much we need strong women and how much we owe to women as a society.
South African-born pianist and composer Malika Omar, who has spent a number of years working in Dubai, will also perform a piano piece composed specifically for the exhibition opening. Omar has been nominated for various awards and has been a Maserati 1 of 100 Personalities Worldwide.
American music trio The Betty Effect will meanwhile perform on 11 August from 6pm as part of the exhibition’s packed event schedule. The Betty Effect aims to use music and performance techniques to help women and girls worldwide communicate and connect for personal power, social progress and peace.
Artists showcasing work as part of the We Cannot Be Silent exhibition include Sumaya Hisham who is known for her photographic exhibition about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which has been shown in several cities.
Hisham’s images for We Cannot Be Silent tell the story of Rene Tracy Roman, a 13-year-old girl murdered in Lavender Hill in March this year. She also shows how Rene’s mother is coping after her loss.
Award-winning filmmaker Nadine Cloete, known for her film Action Kommandant about anti-apartheid activist Ashley Kriel, will show her intimate short film featuring women talking about how safe the streets of Cape Town are for them after sunset.
Eunice Geustyn, executive head of the Ruth Prowse School of Art, visually explores the statistic that one in three women are physically assaulted in South Africa.
exYoung photographer Wandie Mesatywa has used photography as a means for healing from abuse she experienced in her past. For this exhibition, she visits a woman who survived abuse and tells her story visually – for healing.
American documentary photographer Alexandra Deitz will also have her project Embracing Dignity on show. This is a cooperative endeavour with the Cape Town-based NGO Embrace Dignity which aims to help women who are seeking an exit from sexual exploitation.
Yazeed Kamaldien, the exhibition and event schedule organiser, will show photographs and a short film that tells the story of Courtney Pieters, the three-year-old girl from Elsies River who was raped and murdered this year.
Kamaldien says he was motivated to curate this exhibition after seeing “too many gruesome headlines and realising we can’t let this abuse go on”.
“It is sickening that every day a young girl or woman is violently killed in this country. Something is wrong with our society. This is a crime we should all be concerned about. We cannot be silent,” says Kamaldien.
“We are a group of creative people who have come together and want to use this platform to restore dignity for the families of women and girls who have been raped and murdered.
“Our goal is to create a space where women and girls along with men can talk about what is happening in our society – and heal while finding hope. We are taking a moment to pause and reflect but also mobilise, bringing people together for a way forward.”
Kamaldien adds: “We believe artists have a responsibility to speak about the issues that face our society and that is what we are doing with this exhibition. We are encouraging conversations by bringing together artists and activists.”
A series of panel discussions during the exhibition are also planned. The discussions will take place in the exhibition venue. All events are open to the public.