Occupying the ultimate male taboo

Guy Buttery played a few chords and I tjanked into my last cup of coffee.
Guy is a South African and global musical treasure and I enjoy finding SA identity in his compositions.

But these unmanly tears were, in fact, more of an aftershock.
A few minutes earlier I was part of a silent bunch of walkers who experienced something utterly unique and terrifying: a woman performing the sound a “man” makes when raping a woman.
Did I get that right?

Six Cape Town women artists,  have created Walk: South Africa, a “multi-disciplinary” show made up of five or six focal pieces (1pm Wednesday, October 1, Dragon Room).

The work adds to global outrage against the rape and bludgeoning to death of 23-year-old Jyoti Pandey by six “men” on a Delhi bus in 2012.

The show is also the SA response to Maya Krishna Rao’s “The Walk”, but raises in addition, the attrocious rape and murder of Anene Booysen.
To some, it is a feminist response, but this art goes beyond an -ist or -ism.

We’d start the piece downstairs with a woman,  blowing up thin, clear, plastic bags used for hotdog rolls or dough. She looks an audience member in the eye, as if to say, take this cheap, fragile, thing – my air, my skin, my freedom, my essence.

As the audience hand stretches out, she drops the bag, eyes still boring into our head. We watch it drift to the floor and out towards the rough street beyond the doors of the Dragon Room.
There is definitely a dragon in that darkened, eerie room upstairs. A very angry, deeply wounded female dragon. Members of male society have invaded, attacked, pierced, ripped apart and defiled the softest heart of the feminine world. And now she is sad, suffocated, hurt, and very, really furious.
The first scene, a woman on a rough bed of salt, clutching a heavy water-filled fish tank and a story about tears. Went over my head.

Then we saw a  woman choking in a plastic wrap shouting into a pink loud hailer, while another read a poem about child rape. Gruesome.

But it was the final scene, two women, one black and young, one white and older, where the moment of power,  statement, shock and awe in the piece resided.

The young black performer pulls her innards from her gusset, and uses this strip of white bandage to wrap around her head, gagging and blinding herself.

The light turns on the face of the white woman.

In a large room we have only one light, one face framed in the spotlight.

A strange keening turns into throaty, primal male-sounding rage. The crescendo is  pure art of darkness horror.

The facial expression, the rasping, the rattling, the guttural violence of the tone, is like a ramrod to the male brain, hopefully all minds.

And yet, not a word is spoken. It is all sound. But I got it.

You have to wonder at the gender dynamic of a woman performing, representing and occupying this unspeakable and probably unspoken aspect of rape.

I found it profoundly political, and so disturbing that my reaction only popped onto the surface during Guy’s beautiful composition.

Only two or three statistics rolled on the screen during “The Walk”. The most startling being that “it is believed” that half of SA women can expect to be raped.

We traipse like zombies after the cast down the backstairs and into a side street where I totally lost all sense of direction.

The cast walked in full costume (nighties, a cloud of plastic bags), each on their own, into the city dusk.

Some audience members started asking if they should follow them. Some actually did.

The piece was never ending, just like the horror of rape.


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