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My Body, My Choice, an exhibition highlighting women’s autonomy and their right to choose is leaving the small university town confines of Rhodes and Grahamstown and bringing its message to Cape Town.

The City of Cape Town’s Arts and Culture Department, in collaboration with Rhodes University present a demonstration of female empowerment. Running from 04 to 08 December 2012, to coincide with the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, the exhibition highlights objectification, one of the root causes of rape.

The exhibition creates a space where women can respond to the victim-blaming, secondary victimisation and social stigma they face when they speak out about the violence they have experienced.

The message of My Body, My Choiceis that women are more than just the sum of their parts and their autonomy and choice is not diminished by what they wear, or do not wear. Nobody has control over your body except for you. Your body, your choice.

In a patriarchal world, which commodifies and objectifies women’s bodies, reclaiming agency is a powerful statement by the women of Rhodes that ‘women have the right to determine their own destinies.’

For the past five years, Rhodes women have put their bodies on the line to publicly proclaim that their bodies are their own and that they always have the right to choose – no matter what they are look like or what they wear. All women have the right to decide what to do with their bodies.

Patriarchy is pervasive, to the point where rather than identifying it as an oppressive ideology, it is simply deemed ‘the natural order’, much like ‘scientific’ racism became the pervasive European belief that white people are ‘naturally’ superior to black people. This form of ‘othering’ results in a complete inability to view objectification as wrong, let alone a form of oppression.

This exhibition challenges that ideology, creating a space for women to experience their bodies as whole, beautiful and above all, their own.

Larissa Klazinga, Rhodes University

In a display of solidarity, Rhodes women reclaimed what was theirs and removed their clothes to create images of triumph, of struggle, and of self- declaration. These images include naked women with messages written on placards and on their bodies: messages of happiness and hope as well as of anger and frustration, messages calling for an end to violence against women.

The message of the exhibition is an echo of the defiance which characterises the other Rhodes anti-rape initiative, the annual Silent Protest and is also as a means of illustrating the greater issue of the objectifying of the female form that pervades our patriarchal world.

By juxtaposing these images of joy and liberation with the stark images of thousands of women gagged with black tape in a show of solidarity with women silenced by rape culture, these two protest actions highlight the work being done at Rhodes University combat gender-based violence and promote a new generation of women leaders to continue the struggle for liberation.

Some of these ground-breaking Rhodes graduates will be participating in events throughout the exhibition including Jen Thorpe, editor of the My First Time volume of short stories, historian and HIV expert Dr Rebecca Hodes and leading scholar of transgender issues in Africa Bianca Camminga.

Events for the Week

TUESDAY 04/12

11h00 “And Sarah Laughed: Religions’ language and God.” Dr AzilaReisenberger

14h00 “We Must Choose: Reflections on a woman’s right to choose” Dr Rebecca Hodes

16h00 My 1st Time: book discussion and readings by authors Jen Thorpe & Athambile Masola

18h30 Formal Exhibition Opening Night Cocktail Party and Belly Dancing Exhibition by Cherith Sanger

 

WEDNESDAY 05/12

10H30 Body Image Workshop Larissa Klazinga

13h00 – 19h00 Naked Photo shoot (Body image workshop participants only) Sian Cohen

20h00 for.GIVEn choreographed and performed by Nadine Joseph

 

THURSDAY 06/12

09h00 Printmaking workshop

14h00 Photography Discussion led by Jean Brundrit

16h00 “Bodies in Trans-ition” Bianca Camminga

20h00 Danielle Bowler Live

21h00 Lucy Kruger Live

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