Exhibit highlights 1 000 voices

A girls at a FGM/C ceremony dating back to the early 1940s found by Owanto at her parents house.

An exhibition at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz Mocaa),
at the V&A Waterfront, is putting the spotlight on the practice of female genital mutilation and cutting.

The One Thousand Voices exhibition by artist Owanto is a collection of photography and audio testimonies of survivors from around the world.

Owanto’s work aims to create awareness about the practice and facilitate a dialogue about the rights of women over their own bodies.

Sakhisizwe Gcina, a curatorial assistant at the Zeitz Mocaa, takes visitors through the exhibition. “We want to show marginalised and arguably provocative narratives about African cultures,” said Mr Gcina.

Porcelain flowers are used as symbols of women’s sexuality and as a contrast to what the mutilated girls experienced. Mr Gcina said protecting women and children is complicated due to social customs and it is a sensitive issue to work around.

Female genital mutilation and cutting is performed by mothers and grandmothers in different parts of the world. Mr Gcina said, in some instances, experienced mothers get paid to cut other girls because that
is how they make a living, which
is similar to an inkankhata or
traditional nurse in Xhosa who take care of initiates in the mountains.

While the ritual of mutilating and cutting girls is not illegal in some parts of Africa, countries such as Kenya have started alternative rites of passage programmes where the rituals still take place, including dancing, singing and wearing traditional attire, but the cutting is excluded. The girls are also taught skills such as how to fend for themselves and their families, said Mr Gcina.

One Thousand Voices follows from Owanto’s earlier series titled La Jeune Fille a la Fleur, based on her engagement with archival photographs that depict young girls at an initiation ceremony most likely taken during the 1940s.

The Zeitz Mocaa is open every day from 10am to 6pm. Admission costs R190 for adults and is free for those under 18. Entry is free for African citizens every Wednesday from10am to 1pm on presentation of an ID.

Call 087 350 4777 for more information.