Exhibition illuminates stories of the forgotten

Sea Point pianist Malika Omar.

We cannot remain silent and become desensitised to the violence against women and children.

This was the message at the opening of a new exhibition at the Castle of Good Hope, on Women’s Day, Wednesday August 9. The multimedia exhibition, We Cannot Be Silent, will run until Sunday September 24. It includes public dialogues on some of the societal problems that lead towards violence and the importance of speaking out.

Curator Yazeed Kamaldien said he felt it was important to open the exhibition on Women’s Day.

Mr Kamaldien said it was about bringing together a creative response to what was happening in society.

“We think our society is sick. It’s a sick society that kills and rapes women and children. It came from my own feeling of dissatisfaction of what I’m seeing in my society. I was driving down the road and saw those posters on the pole that, yet again, another girl was raped and murdered.”

Mr Kamaldien said he decided to reach out to other artists to do something about it. “It is about honouring the lives that we have lost but also about providing a space for reflection. People come into the space and engage with the stories of survivors and those we have lost. It’s about survivors as well.”

He said that there would also be various NGOs that would be involved in programmes throughout the exhibition.

“They will run workshops and panel discussions which aim to empower people. We live in a society where there are people who can help. That’s why we are saying we cannot be silent but we can help.

“We need to be in a situation where we are firstly educating boys and men about what they are doing and the role that they play in society. We know that the problem is boys and men that are doing these violent acts. “People have become so desensitised to this, and people don’t even want to read stories on this anymore. We need to become a bit more reflective of what’s happening in our society. It is each individual who plays a role. “We don’t have to have another three-year-old getting murdered. We can prevent it through education and societal issues that people face. Each individual can help. It’s about saying enough is enough, and in small way each one of us can do something.”

Sea Point-based composer Malika Omar said she felt it was important to get involved in the exhibition.

Ms Omar composed a piano piece, We Rise for a film about murdered toddler Courtney Pieters that is part of the exhibition.

“I just wanted to be involved in something so important. We need more light to be shed on the issue. I’ve been living outside the country for a while, and since I’ve returned, stories of this nature have become more prevalent. I feel like we are a bit desensitised to it, and it’s not okay. I feel like we need to stand up and make our country safer for ourselves and our children. I was happy to be involved.”

Ms Omar said all women had experienced different forms of harassment or manipulation.

“Sometimes it is done subconsciously, but men should be part of this conversation. I also don’t feel like we should blame men either. I know amazing men that are very supportive and encourage women to stand up for themselves. They want to make a difference. It is about general respect for others, regardless of gender. I feel like that will influence our behaviour towards the opposite sex.”

She encouraged people to check out the exhibition and to join the dialogue.

Claudia Lopes, of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which is based in Cape Town, said she thought the exhibition was excellent.

“There is definitely a need for more activism using this medium. These pictures tell a story that sometimes you can’t get on a piece of paper.”

She said the foundation provide a space for a dialogue on gender-based violence.

“There is a need for continuous awareness raising. This year was the first time in a long time there was so much more media reporting on violence against women. We need that all the time. It goes beyond 16 days of activism and beyond Women’s Month. We need people to talk out and understand that it is not okay. There is a need for more engagement and more talking and about challenging the patriarchy that is our society.”

The exhibition runs until Sunday September 24. Keep an eye on the We Cannot Be Silent Facebook page for more information about panel discussions taking place.