An exhibition held in a Johannesburg mall that seeks to raise awareness of South Africa’s high level of violence against women, features a centerpiece of a fictional country which has its own currency, passports and a blood-stained map.
The Republic of Sexual Abuse, the creation of a group of campaigners in South Africa, where a woman is murdered every three hours aimed to raise awareness and inspire action against it.
The concept for the exhibition came from Roanna Williams, executive creative director of the advertising agency Black River FC, after she saw women protesting against the violence from her office window.
“Most women in South Africa have a story of sexual abuse,” said Williams at the exhibition, which opened on Nov. 26 to coincide with the United Nations’ 16 days of activism campaign against gender-based violence.
Recent murders, rapes and kidnappings of South African women sparked mass protests in September where women called for justice for rape survivors.
Soon after, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a five-point plan to tackle violence against women, including media campaigns, strengthening the criminal justice system, and providing training for healthcare workers and counsellors.
The exhibition, ran together with women’s rights group People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), includes a huge red map painted in fake blood with all the excuses men use to rape women – including “I was drunk”.
At the back of the exhibition, a warning sign marks the entrance to a bedroom where blood stained sheets hide behind a curtain. Recordings of cries and slaps fill the room.
About 3,000 women in South Africa were murdered in 2018 – one every three hours and more than five times higher than the global average, according to the World Health Organization.
The number of recorded murders of women went up 11% between 2017 and 2018.
Some men visiting the exhibition get defensive, said Clayton Swartz, Black River FC’s art director, but many leave taking pamphlets and asking how they can help.
“I am proud to be South African, but not with these rape stats,” said Swartz. “We want to encourage everyone to speak out.” (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)