Local artists interpret research on GBV in exhibition

Academic research, art and dialogue come together in a study on gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa and India, with local artist Philiswa Lila tasked with interpreting it in an exhibition.

The research known as the GendV Project – which is headed by the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg, the Institute of Economic Growth in India, and Oxford University – brings together scholars in Joburg and Delhi to study gender-based violence using a mixed research approach.

Lila – a master’s graduate in art history from Rhodes University and a team member of the GendV Project – was tasked with interpreting the interviews with victims of GBV gathered by researchers and investigators into a work of art.


The 34-year-old visual artist did not have to look further than her own life to connect with experiences of the respondents.

“My own experience of waking up as a girl with my panties on my knees resonated with the pain many of the women shared,” she said.

The interviews inspired Lila’s installation and performance, A bed called home: shared pain and healing, which was held at the Melrose Gallery in Joburg to raise awareness on GBV last week. Lila sought the help of fellow artist Chumani Mantanga, better known as ivukuvuku, who as a rape survivor, saw it as an opportunity to share her journey of healing.

The exhibition will return early next year as part of a broader conversation that will include researchers and investigators who are part of the GendV project.

Lila hopes it will thereafter travel around the country to raise awareness about violence against women and children.

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