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Artcollab studio in partnership with the Keiskamma Art Trust embarked on a new collaboration project called Ubumbano/Unity Collaboration in February 2021. Five artists from the Keiskamma Art Trust collaborated with three Cape Town and one Joburg based artists for a week-long residency in the village of Hamburg based in the Eastern Cape. The theme of Gender Based Violence (GBV) emerged through the workshops as the most important social issue the artists collectively wanted to address through the collaborative work Ubumbano/Unity.
As part of our collaborative process, we shared personal stories and our experiences of gender-based violence (GBV) as women, men, mothers, daughters, sons and community members. As a group we also engaged in discussions and research with local resident social workers and police staff to identify the key areas affecting the village of Hamburg and the greater community. Our first task was to unpack what Gender Based Violence (GBV) was, how it affected us and what aspects of it we wanted to focus on in our work.
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
We came to understand in the research of the project that GBV does not only affect women however it affects women and girls disproportionately but also has great impacts on sex workers and in the LGBTQI community.
The UN Declaration of Elimination of Violence against Women and the Council of Europe define GBV as ‘Gender-based violence refers to any type of harm that is perpetrated against a person or group of people because of their factual or perceived sex, gender, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This type of violence is deeply rooted in the social and cultural structures, norms and values that govern society, and is often perpetuated by a culture of denial and silence.
We learned as a group that one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime and that one in five women worldwide will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime and that violence against women is the most common but least punished crime in the world and it poses an enormous obstacle to achieve gender equality worldwide.
We decided to focus on four areas of GBV for our project which included; Silence, Safe Spaces, Institutional Structures, and Speaking Up. We chose Silence as it relates to the victims’ silence as well as community and family shame and silence on an institutional level (teachers and social workers). Safe Spaces was selected as relating to social and private spaces of GBV violence and spaces of healing from trauma. Institutional Structures were focused on as they relate to safety and care workers in GBV as well as government institutions such as the police, courts and prisons. Lastly we focused on ‘Speaking Up’ in relation to understanding what GBV is, activism and understanding the personal and institutional power relations and how to change them.
The body of work we produced in the residency included collaborative prints, costume and sculpture, video art and soundscapes related to these four areas we felt were the most important to address through the work. We used collaboration as our artistic methodology to engage with the topic, each other and our work. Wright & Roberts (2004: 532) consider collaboration to be a space of interconnection between art and non-art, art and other disciplines, that continually tests the social boundaries of where, how, with what and with whom art might be made.
Deborah Weber, Elgin Rust, Jolene Cartmill, Luntu Vumazonke and local Keiskamma artists; Anelisa Lisa Nyongo, Nombulelo Paliso, Sanela Maxengana, Siyabonga Maswana and Veronica Betani.