Artscape Theatre centre – marble Foyer extension August
“As a performance artist, she is the definition plus ultra of the material witness. Her staggered incantation is a tolling.” Ashraf Jamal – STRANGE CARGO Essays on Art 2022
Between April 2015 – March 2020, an average of 2 763 womxn were murdered annually in South Africa according to the SAPS Crime Statistics from that period.
That means one womxn murdered every three hours and ten minutes on average, over the span of 365 days x 5 years.
For most of us, these nameless womxn are just statistics, abstracted and far removed from our daily existence. That however is not the case for Cape Town based performance artist, Carin Bester. For her, every single one had a life, loved ones, hopes and dreams, a name.
With “She had a name” Bester made it her personal mission to honour and acknowledge them in her work.
‘She Had a Name 365’ began on the 1st of April 2021 at midnight and ran for a year-long performance cycle. This cycle showed Bester record a video saying “She had a name” with the next consecutive number every 190 minutes – posted on social media. Every video statistically coincided with a womxn being murdered in South Africa. A weekly video of the combined individual videos was created and posted with details of organisations, shelters and campaigns fighting against gender-based violence (GBV).
The sentence ‘She had a name’, carries the weight of acknowledging every murdered womxn as a person, forcing us to look past the numbers we see on the statistical crime sheets, reminding us that, She had a name.
In total 2 763 performance videos were created. The same amount of womxn murdered in South Africa annually over a 5-year period 2015 -2020. The very sad and horrific reality that followed this number is that during this performance year 2021 – 2022 the number of womxn murdered increased by 17.8% with a total number of 3 255 womxn murdered, and then it increased again for 2022 – 2023 resulting in 3 914 womxn murdered. A shocking 41.6% increase from the 5-year average of 2 763.
This is why it is so important that the call to action in this performance is seen and responded to. This performance was not just about the mourning of these womxn’s lives, but it is a call to action. A motivation for more people to get involved and act, to support existing organisations working to end GBV. It’s about standing up for all femme bodies who are victims of the patriarchal system. To change the narrative which fuels a rape culture and the oppression of womxn.
The last “She had a name” video was recorded on 31 March 2022; it was however not the end of the road for this project. By creating a multi layered installation Bester aims to continue creating awareness beyond the initial 365 days.
This project creates a space where dialogue can happen around violence against the femme body. To inspire people to get involved, to push people out of the space of complacency where so many South Africans find themselves languishing. A space where we as a nation have become so desensitised to the violence that we do not even react to it anymore.
The objective of the installation is to work with organisations in the various regions to continually create awareness around these organisations and GBV. It’s a way of getting the much-needed resources out to the public who very often do not know who to contact when help is needed.
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072 305 1525