The City of Cape Town’s Arts and Culture Department, in collaboration with Rhodes University will host a series of female empowerment exhibitions and workshops which coincide with the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. The programmes will run from 4 to 6 December 2012 at the City Hall, Darling Street Cape Town.

The My Body, My Choice, is an exhibition highlighting a women’s autonomy and their right to choose. The exhibition creates a space where women can respond to the victim-blaming, secondary victimisation and social stigma they face when they speak out about the violence they have experienced. 

The message of My Body, My Choice is that women are more than just the sum of their parts and their autonomy and choice is not diminished by what they wear, or do not wear. Nobody has control over your body except for you. Your body, your choice.

Mayoral Committee Member for the Tourism, Events and Marketing Directorate, Councillor Grant Pascoe, said the City of Cape Town is proud to be a partner in this demonstration of empowerment.   

“The City is committed to creating a safe and enabling city for all.  This exhibition programme demonstrates our commitment to creating awareness around the impact of violence against women and encourages citizens to advocate for an end to abuse against women and children, using the arts. Projects such as this one are profound mechanisms for social transformation. Through this forum we strive to foster solidarity between all people on the issue of gender-based violence while raising awareness around domestic violence, sexual violence and human rights with the goal of preventing future gender based violence,” said Councillor Pascoe.

For the past five years, Rhodes women have put their bodies on the line to publicly proclaim that their bodies are their own and that they always have the right to choose – no matter what they are look like or what they wear. All women have the right to decide what to do with their bodies.

Larissa Klazinga, Student Services Officer at Rhodes University said that in a patriarchal world, which commodifies and objectifies women’s bodies, reclaiming agency is a powerful statement by the women of Rhodes that ‘women have the right to determine their own destinies.’

“Patriarchy is pervasive, to the point where rather than identifying it as an oppressive ideology, it is simply deemed ‘the natural order’, much like ‘scientific’ racism became the pervasive European belief that white people are ‘naturally’ superior to black people. This form of ‘othering’ results in a complete inability to view objectification as wrong, let alone a form of oppression. This exhibition challenges that ideology, creating a space for women to experience their bodies as whole, beautiful and above all, their own,” said Klazinga.

In a display of solidarity, Rhodes women reclaimed what was theirs and removed their clothes to create images of triumph, of struggle, and of self- declaration. These images include naked women with messages written on placards and on their bodies: messages of happiness and hope as well as of anger and frustration, messages calling for an end to violence against women.

The message of the exhibition is an echo of the defiance which characterises the other Rhodes anti-rape initiative, the annual Silent Protest and is also a means of illustrating the greater issue of the objectifying of the female form that pervades our patriarchal world.

By contrasting these images of joy and liberation with the stark images of thousands of women gagged with black tape in a show of solidarity with women silenced by rape culture, these two protest actions highlight the work being done at Rhodes University to combat gender-based violence and promote a new generation of women leaders to continue the struggle for liberation.

Some of these ground-breaking Rhodes graduates will be participating in events throughout the exhibition including Jen Thorpe, editor of the My First Time volume of short stories, historian and HIV expert Dr Rebecca Hodes and leading scholar of transgender issues in Africa Bianca Camminga.

To book for seminars/workshops, please RSVP to Nikita Campbell: Nikita.Campbell@capetown.gov.za

Exhibition programme as follows:

 

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