No parent should ever have to bury their child.
These were the emotive words of veteran artist Mazwi Ndima as he tearfully related the pain of losing two of his children at the hands of their partners during the opening of his five-week-long exhibition – Imbali yo Mfazi/The Legend of a Woman – at the Workers’ Museum in Newtown, Johannesburg, on National Women’s Day on Wednesday August 9.
The event was also attended by the City of Johannesburg’s Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development, Cllr Nonhlanhla Sifumba.
Eighteen years ago one of Mdima’s sons died after his girlfriend poured boiling cooking oil on his face while he was sleeping.Fifteen years later his daughter was strangled to death by her boyfriend, leaving Mdima and his wife, Judith, heartbroken and distraught, and with a lot of unanswered questions. Frustrated and emotionally drained, the self-taught sculptor – he has a spiritual connection with wood – started looking for answers everywhere until the street became his library. It was then that he realised he had to highlight the scourge of violence against women.
“Women are at the receiving end of abuse.
We may live in a democratic country with one of the best constitutions in the world but our women are still paralysed. Women are being killed by the very same men who are supposed to protect them,” said Mdima.
“As we celebrate Women’s Day, there is a dark cloud hanging over women in South Africa. The killing of women is on the rise,” he said.
He said the high levels of gender-based violence were indicative of how society continued to oppress and take women for granted.
“Yes, a woman killed my son but a man also killed my daughter. Many other women die in the hands of men. This made me look for ways to rally around and communicate with people about the crimes perpetrated against women in our society,” said Mdima.
He said this made him want to advocate against gender-based violence. The only way to do that was through his work, which resulted in the 18-piece exhibition. The sculptures range from women with disfigured faces to those without limps.
“The work I present today is to say: ‘Our children are being murdered.’ Through it, I’d also want to share my experiences on what gender-based violence has robbed me of,” said Mdima.
MMC Sifumba said she was deeply touched by Mdima’s painful story.
She said she hoped people attending the exhibition would learn a lot from it because gender-based violence was an issue that even society was afraid to talk about.
“For the past couple of months we hosted a number of imbizos. We themed them ‘Let’s Talk Jozi' and we went to various communities to engage them on women abuse, gender-based violence and femicide,” said Sifumba.
She said through the imbizos the City was hoping community members would talk about why women were being killed. The MMC said the Workers' Museum was one of those close to her heart because of the heritage it held. Cllr Sifumba said the Newtown Precinct was all about allowing people to tell stories using different forms of the arts. The Imbali yo Mfazi/Legend of a Woman exhibition ends on September 15.