South African visual artist, Dieuwke Jean Linee, and writer and academic, Dr. Diana Ferrus, collaborated on a range of paintings of female struggle icons to highlight women and gender rights issues in South Africa. Ferrus wrote a poem to accompany each painting created by Linee.
The art created by Linee is on display at the Koena Art Institute in Cape Town. The gallery is the first black and indigenous art institution to exclusively market indigenous South African art as investments.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape, murder, femicide and gender-based violence in the world.
Many of these issues are highlighted in August, which is commemorated as Women’s Month annually. Women’s Day on August 9 is a public holiday, in commemoration of the 1956 Women’s March to South Africa’s Union Building, in opposition to the Apartheid regime’s oppressive laws.
Linee, who is 27 years of age, is considered a “born free”, a name given to young people born into South Africa after the advent democracy. Linee says Women’s Day to her is a reminder that women also have a voice.
Dr. Ferrus, who was also an anti-apartheid activist, considered it a great honour to write the poetry which which accompanies Linee’s paintings. Dr. Ferrus believes it was not only an opportunity to showcase her poetry but also an opportunity to the stories of South African women.
Dr. Ferrus says the Women’s March of 1956 showed women they have the ability to protest. She says the response by men in power to protests by women is hugely disappointing. Dr. Ferrus stated that women will have to teach men in power how to respond to their protests and demands.
On the issue of the importance of the 1956 Women’s March, Dr. Ferrus said the holiday would be meaningless if the consciousness of women were not raised about the importance of Women’s Day and the 1956 March.
It was estimated that about 20,000 women of all races from all over South Africa took part in the march on August 9, 1956. One of the issues which the women protested was opposition to a proposal by Prime Minister JG Strijdom’s government to start issuing passbooks to black women. Under South African law at the time, black men living in urban areas had to carry passbooks in order to transit between their home and workplace.