Pretoria

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10min1270

My typing cannot keep-up with the pace at which this rain is coming down. For some people, this here downpour could symbolize their growth, rebirth or sum like that. While for someone squatting in a shack somewhere, it’s simply a pain in the butt.

In the same way some still believe that any talk of miscarriages or child loss is taboo or a no-go-area. So much that a term like ‘fetal demise’ is preferred over ‘death’ or ‘passing away’ when talking about this kind of bereavement. But there are rebels out there, with a cause and without a pause, fighting against this stereotype. Palesa Makua is one of them.

EYES OF THE WARRIOR: Palesa Makua. Photo by Sello Majara
EYES OF THE WARRIOR: Palesa Makua. Photo by Sello Majara

Through her movement, Her Skin Speaks, which is dedicated at celebrating women’s ever-changing bodies, Makua put together a photo exhibition titled What Do We Call Women Who Have Lost Children? as a way of healing herself and other women who’ve lost babies.

“I was miserable and almost losing my mind, I then decided to quit my job to fully focus on myself and those like me,” she says. The Mamelodi-native lost her son through stillbirth in 2017 and has experienced two other losses after that. The idea to do this project came to her in January this year.

A patron appreciates the Her Skin Speaks exhibition at Cafe What? in Lesotho. Photo by Sello Majara
A patron appreciates the Her Skin Speaks exhibition at Cafe What? in Lesotho. Photo by Sello Majara

“This project has been what therapy is for most who find it useful for them.  It has not only given me the chance to openly deal with what has happened to me but also gave an amazing sisterhood with women who are strangers yet relate to my story wholeheartedly.  This project has been a healing space for me and it continues to serve that to those I have not yet met.”

Since this was also a therapeutic experience for her, Makua found herself reliving what she had gone through. “I also struggled with holding back my tears when we were documenting real conversations with the women who have lived these stories (which is totally understandable because we don’t necessarily get over the loss but with time we learn to coexist with the pain).

The Her Skin Speaks exhibition. Photo by Sello Majara
The Her Skin Speaks exhibition. Photo by Sello Majara

The exhibition was launched in August. “Showcasing at Vavasati International Women’s Festival hosted at The State Theatre was absolutely a dream come true, having to step on that much of a big entity’s stage and bare my soul was absolutely amazing.  The platform has added enormous weight to Her Skin Speaks ExHERbition as a brand.”

The exhibition has also made its way to the Kingdom. “Lesotho has become my second home and show casing there was absolutely needed as I have featured two ladies based in Barea and Morija (Lesotho) It was an honour seeing the subjects there with their loved ones to witness their contribution to such a movement and even heavier topic,” she says.

A photographer herself, Makua took photos of the four women who were part of this project. “The initial women whom the exhibition was about did not feel comfortable with being shot nude so I had to make a call out for women who are able and would like to embody their stories and it wasn’t really hard for them to agree to this idea as some of them knew why I needed to do this shoot because they are familiar with my story.”

Cafe What? – Her Skin Speaks exhibition in Lesotho. Photo by Sello Majara

The vulnerability that comes with nudity is no child’s play, especially in a society that sexualises the female body. It makes sense why some women would pull out of such a project- we live in a world where people even shun being naked by themselves. But not Palesa Makua, she has a liking for the bod. She embraces the beauty of her body without shame.  “The reason I am fascinated by telling stories through human nudity is because for a very long time women’s bodies have been a battlefield and unfortunately they continue to be.

I honestly couldn’t think of any other way to portray this “Battlefield” in its truest, most beautiful and sincere form as we know it and call it what exactly it is.”

“All these unfortunate events are taking place emizimbeni yethu or it is the foundation of the amount of damage that happens emuntwini, I couldn’t have chosen any other way to document our stories.”

– Her Skin Speaks exhibition at Cafe What? in Lesotho. Photo by Sello Majara

“What I hope that people take from this is that no one has to suffer in silence and in the words of Zewande ‘The soul of a miscarried child never leaves the womb’ also hope that more women finds comfort that we are here holding space for them and that they should never go through this loss alone.  I hope this inspires more women to open up to other women about such events (I know I wish oh I had someone walking me through this).”

Makua will today showcase her work at Black Labone in Pretoria (381 Helen Joseph Street African Beer Emporium)


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IT was almost habitual for my friends and I to immediately, after watching a movie, meet at one of our backyards to mimic what we saw on film. The countless spinning-kick attempts after a Jean-Claude Van Damme motion picture, would make the actor blush with pride.

A screenshot from the Kickboxer movie.

For us it was not only limited to film, even after watching the biggest reality TV show the WWE, you’d find one of us, depending on whoever has the most charisma on the day, being The Rock.

I was taken back to my childhood by reports that Refiloe Phoolo, better known as Cassper Nyovest, booked out the entire Mega City cinema in Mafikeng, for kids from his neighbourhood to go watch Matetwe. A great gesture by the rapper, to support local creation and also take these kids on an excursion they’ll probably cherish for the rest of their lives. Much like how Kendrick Lamar did for the kids in Compton last year, with Black Panther.

Directed by Kagiso Lediga and produced by Black Coffee, Matetwe is a film about two friends from Atteridgeville who are undecided about their life post high school and their adventures on New Year’s Eve which land them in some trouble. The two main characters Lefa and Papi, played by Sibusiso Khwinana and Tebatso Mashishi respectfully, opt to peddle their special weed called Matwetwe, with hopes of becoming instant millionaires. Nyovest poignantly had a moment of silence for Khwinana before the start of the film. The young actor was murdered at the height of the movie’s success at the box office.

Matwetwe screenshot: Sibusiso and Tebatso

Matetwe is enjoyable as finely rolled up Sativa, but I can’t help but wonder what the kids from Maftown took from the film. That pushing greens is the best alternative, when you’re out of options for life after school or has Matetwe triggered the curiosity to experiment with marijuana? Of course, there’s also the possibility that the bulk of kids who filled those auditoriums are well acquainted with Maryjane.
But when you look at how film has deliberately, placed it in our subconscious, that it’s a cultural necessity for one to consume alcohol for example, you tend to appreciate the nexus between motion picture and how we live. Countless scenes of people at a bar, a dinner table or even at a tavern jump at me, when I think of the consumption of booze on camera.

People’s passiveness while glued to a screen, is one of the main reasons why the film industry is so influential in the lives of many. Added to the fact that the average person isn’t conscious of their mental or even emotional intake.

Wars across Africa were commonplace 60 to 70 years ago, which have trickled to modern times in some states on the Motherland. But one can’t deny the influence Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo series of movies had, on young Africans’ appetite to carry Kalashnikovs in the 80s. Whether you were going over the borders of apartheid Suid-Afrika to join Umkhonto We Sizwe, or wanted to be part of Thomas Sankara’s Revolutionary Defence Committee in Burkina Faso…this selfless act was also fuelled by the desire to be a Rambo, the skilled killer draped in uniform, who could rid us of the bad guys.

Film can also be a great vehicle to inspire good in society; it depends on the underlining message. That films are portraying the impact in which patriarchy, racism, body shamming or any other form of discrimination has on people is a step in the right direction which helps to mitigate hate that some people are at the receiving end of, daily.

A movie can only do so much though. The same way a three minute ditty that lashes at government corruption can also stir you up as a citizen, it ultimately cannot stop the actual rot in public office. After all, not one of us in my group of childhood friends went on to become black belt karate students after watching Kickboxer.



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