Being reflected in Marikana Women
Nadzeya Husakouskaya is a Ph.D student at SKOK. On the 30th of March she re-opened her exhibition titled “Opposite: being reflected in Marikana Women” at European Humanities University (EHU) in Vilnius, Lithuania.
On the 30th of March I re-opened my exhibition titled this time as “Opposite: being reflected in Marikana Women” at European Humanities University (EHU) in Vilnius, Lithuania. The launch of exhibition opened series of events organized by the Centre for Gender Studies at EHU and dedicated to discussion of issues around representation, resistance and identity. The exhibition travelled from Bergen (Norway) were it was launched at the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK) at University of Bergen in August 2015 under the title “Colour of protest: Witnessing Marikana Women”.
The history of exhibition coming to life goes as following. I came to South Africa in August 2012 and was working with transgender and intersex internal migrants in urban Gauteng as a visiting researcher in African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand. On the 16th of August 2012 the Marikana massacre happened. South African security forces open fire on a group of striking miner workers at the Marikana platinum mine, operated by a British based platinum group Lonmin near Rustenberg. More than 3000 workers had gone to strike a week earlier in pursuit of a pay raise. As a result of shooting, 34 miners were killed, and at least 78 were wounded.
I heard of planning of the Marikana women’s protest during the First National Conference “End Hate Crimes Against LGBT People” on 17 – 19th of September 2012 which I attended being probably one out of three white persons among more than 90 participants (mostly Black lesbians). The Marikana massacre resonated deeply with my own experience of police brutality in Belarus in 2006 during the protests after the Belarusian presidential election. I went to Marikana on the 29th of September to witness the women’s march and find possible points of juncture and solidarity. On the 29th of September a group of Marikana women gathered in informal settlement Bokogon-2, near the place were miners had been shot. They were singing and chanting slogans and songs from the anti-apartheid struggle and then marched towards the police station in Marikana located in seven kilometers from the settlement. The women’s march aimed to protest against police brutality and show solidarity with striking miners. Another crucial dimension of the protest was pointing out on gender-based violence that is highly prevalent in South Africa and violence that Black women in rural areas are facing in particular.
The idea of this exhibition took three years to develop. At the end, I decided to juxtapose photographs that represent what I witnessed during the march and my own dairy entries and field notes that I had been taking daily while living in South Africa in 2012-2013. Text of the diaries is not a con/text for photographs, it rather speaks on its own right. Importantly, this art project is not about women of Marikana. On a contrary, it represents “us” who are looking at photographs in attempt to read something important through the bodies and faces of those who are looking back at “us” from the photographs.
I feel the need for the exhibition to travel and to be reshaped due to different languages and locations in order to instigate the discussion on gender, race and politics of representation and resistance in various contexts.
I am grateful to the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK), University of Bergen, for financial and institutional support. Special thanks go to my comrades – Sasha Padziarei, Natallia Holava, Natali Ahnishchenko, Alena Minchenia and Mille Højerslev Nielsen – for their assistance, advice and moral support.