by Matlali Matabane
There’s a saying in Sesotho that goes “Matsatsi ha a chabe ka ho ts’oana.” Meaning each day has something different to offer. January 28th 2019 was one such a day as we began our workshop focusing on Gender Based Violence and thus beginning, for me personally, an inquiry into the self. Little did I know that beyond the confines of my perspective that new ideas, sisterhood, tears and healing awaited. Participants of the workshop were Mats’eliso Mots’oane, ‘Mamohlakola Letuka, Ts’episo Mahooe, ‘Maleballo Mokhathi and Tsebo Phakisi whom collectively I later related to as my tribe.
We inquired why violence strikes a chord for most women and if this is an injustice we should still be fighting for in the modern world. The concensus was we live in a patriarchal world where law and systems were established within predominantly masculine settings barely accommodating the unique needs of the feminine counterpart.
As the day continued we shared a little bit about ourselves through the gentle guidance of TambuMuzenda and Lerato Dumse. Lebogang Mashifane, the third facilitator was behind the scenes and shared here and there. Posing for a group photo marked the end of day one, we then headed into day two with a better understanding of what the workshop was to explore.
We got hands on with research and photography, hitting the streets to find stories and faces. We came across a group of ladies who were kind enough to share their stories among which one was a victim of “ho shobelisoa“, which is a Sesotho custom where a man takes a woman as a wife without her consent. The practice is common in the rural areas as she explained she was from Mokhotlong; a district in the north of Lesotho. She went on to detail how she was ambushed by two men sent by her “suitor” then physically beaten and threatened with a gun. Upon reporting to the authorities, the policefailed to bring the man to justice as he still had access to the family and constantly frequented heir family compound.
She then expressed how she has never healed and has no true sense of freedom in her own village. Further up town, we met a herbalist who shared his knowledge with Mat‘seliso. From that conversation what stood out was when he mentioned that there are more women than men; a common justification used men to cheat, mistreat and often abuse women. Later in the day we finally met Professor Sir Muholi, the creative genius and Thobeka Bhengu the grounded choreographer. With them we further dissected the idea of GBV and opened up our perspective on the issue: how it isn’t just fists, tears and blood, nor being failed by our administration but rather how we are constantly violated by bodies in public spaces and how our silence as artists is a deeper kind of violence unto ourselves.
As the conversation concluded, it was highlighted that we ought to be aware of the current affairs of our country, to question everything, dig deeper into the many realities we are experiencing as Basotho; that is where the real stories lie.
The Inkanyiso team invited us into their personal spacewhere they were housed. Here we shared writings, stories and listened extensively to Zanele, Tambu and the rest of the team as they shared poetry, philosophies and content. The Lesotho team, having a strong literary background engaged the Inkanyiso team as a beautiful exchange of art was documented. Our concepts were further sharpened through writing exercises and we later went on to the field to shoot pictures relating to various exercises meant to expand our thinking process, photography, conceptualization and visual communication skills.
Started us off with exploring a route Zanele and Tambuhad been hiking over the week, which landed us on top of a hill and into the hands of Thobeka for morning stretches, breathing and movement exercises. This then ushered us into a day full of writing, an interactive camera operation lesson, team work among the participants and deeper sharing facilitated by Tambu. As the evening rain poured we headed to a screening of a documentary featuring Prof. Muholi at Café What? where we shot and interacted with fellow artists and the community at large.
The final day was primarily presentation day where each participant selected their best pictures followed by a critique session. The sum of sleepless nights, daily shooting, making friends, scars, mountain tops, natural hair and art is 5 pictures. Everyone had grown in their own way or at least I hope. As for me and my concept of exploring the self, mentioned earlier, it comes to this; that in as much as we are ourselves a part of that is the sum of who we know and love. In a violent world love is the only thing to look forward to. In the end we gave thanks and hugs to those we have connected with and are to soon see again.
Little nuggets to keep.
Mantra : Frame, focus, shoot. (Would look great on a t-shirt).
Lesson : Share what you have, you never know who you are healing.
Many blessings and well wishes to the Inkanyiso and Ba Re teams.