Source: The Namibian
SOME of their names have been forgotten, others didn't live long enough to be named at all and still others cower behind closed doors fearing a society in which gender-based violence is the shame of the victim rather than that of the villain.
As the 122 people raped in the first four months of this year began to fade into the nameless and faceless obscurity of mounting statistics, local activists rallied in mini-skirts to call out the Police Inspector General for ostensibly mitigating rape in favour of the perpetrator and, a mere month ago, discussed the immense task of ending gender-based violence on a mountain top.
Though these initiatives were lauded as unprecedented activism in a society that seems largely apathetic with regard to violent crimes against women and children, it is still an issue perceived as gaining little traction with regard to functional and visible deterrence by law makers and police patrols.
It is these perceptions, frustrations, facts and comments about gender-based violence that will soon be on display at the National Art Gallery of Namibia (NAGN) in an inclusive exhibition titled 'Unite to end Gender Based Violence'.
Calling on individuals from all walks of life to submit paintings, prints, crafts, sculptures, installations, poems, prose, diaries, books, illustrative text, actual objects relating to experience, symbols, ideas, solutions, evidence, constructs, film, music or performance art, the exhibition hopes to foster essential participation which will galvanise communities, civil society, government, the private sector, and the media into discussion which in turn will prompt action.
Though exhibitions seem to be the province of established artists, director of the NAGN, Hercules Viljoen, urges everyone who wishes to become part of the project to do so, including but not limited to artists, poets, musicians, designers, students, organisations, ministries and persons affected by GBV. Stressing that the exhibition is not aimed at achieving aesthetic objectives only and that the exhibition will include a "wall of expressions" which can incorporate text, sketches, notes, newspaper clippings and the like, Viljoen ensures that anyone with something to offer may do so without being a creative professional.
"Apart from being an important mode of communication, art can also be an important therapeutic instrument," says Viljoen.
"Not only artists, but every community member can contribute something to this platform. The project aims to give everyone touched in some or other way by GBV a 'voice' to express themselves by adding their voices to this exhibition."
Perhaps the loudest voice against gender-based violence of late is United Nations Creative Advisory Council member and Victims 2 Survivors founder, Hem Matsi's.
Having led her peers into the wilderness to focus on solutions to the mounting GBV crisis, Matsi returned to Windhoek to focus on the idea of a GBV exhibition she had discussed with the NAGN in february. "I thought there was a need to do a national exhibition so we can have a platform to educate the nation on GBV and also collectively find solutions to the problem as a nation and as one voice," says Matsi. "every day I pick up a newspaper there is a baby dumped, woman raped or killed. If the HIV epidemic, unemployment and poverty cannot unite us as Namibians., let GBV unite us."
Though Matsi recognises that women need to speak out on GBV, she also hopes to engage men and have them act as 'champions of change'. Asked what the worst thing about Namibia's attitude towards GBV is, the activist replied: "That people think it is a taboo to talk about it, and that perpetrators are not punished hard enough. like most people just don't take this issue as seriously as they should." Bent on a way forward that begins with awareness, develops into participation and graduates into action, Matsi, the NAGN, Victims2Survivors; UNDP, UNAIDS, Childline/Lifeline, the Legal Assistance Centre, Ministry of Gender equality and Child Welfare have banded together to create an exhibition set to stir society out of apathy through articulation.
Add your voice to this essential exhibition by submitting your visual art pieces, films, performances, prose, clippings or comments to the NAGN before 10 June.