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Awundiboni – You Don’t See Me _ Thandiwe Msebenzi


Awundiboni – You Don’t See Me
This work tells the story of sexual violence against women through a personal prism. It finds its origins in my childhood memories of witnessing violations that always seemed obscured behind curtains. I grew up in a community where old men lurked in the streets looking for younger women to harass and violate. And as I became a young woman myself, I was constantly reminded that my body, and those of other young women, did not belong to us but were rather available for consumption by the eyes and hands surrounding us. The project was triggered when I experienced physical sexual harassment in a public setting. This got me thinking about how women’s bodies are interpreted in these spaces. And, through my daily witnessing and experiences, this body of work was born.
As I delved into this project, my work started to reflect not just public spaces, but increasingly private ones too, especially the home. The home is a space of safety and comfort, but for many women it can also be a space where we feel most vulnerable, afraid and silenced. I feel like the home is still a space that we view as private and so don’t sufficiently interrogate. In this way, it can become a shrouded space saturated by secrecy and violations in the shadows. Our bedrooms, for example, should offer us privacy and relaxation, but these spaces can also be sites of trauma and pain. Indeed, while you are sleeping you are arguably at your most vulnerable. This tension of trauma and comfort represented by the home, and specifically the bedroom, kept resurfacing for me during this project. For example, when I realised that my grandmother sleeps with weapons under her bed for protection in case she is attacked at night. My mother does the same. Will I too have to sleep with an arsenal under my bed one day?
As much as this project is driven by women’s fear of sexual violence in both public and private spaces, this work is also a celebration of resistance. It seeks to capture both the women’s pain and trauma, but also their immense strength in the face of the sexual violence epidemic that continues to grip South Africa.
Edited by Neroli Price

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