Breaking the Silence  



Special Projects
About the Artist
Contact Us



Breaking the Silence is about the struggle women had in determining whether to come forward and testify before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  There were many reasons why women had particular difficulty in deciding to testify.  They range from the nature of the crimes to be reported to perceived and real societal taboos regarding speaking out. 


40" x 38"   Mixed Media   (2000)                                                           $2200

“... an inestimable number of women who suffered human rights violations in the political context between March 1960-December 1993 have been unwilling to break their silence which is self-imposed.”

TRC Final Report.

Based on extensive research by the TRC and the Center for Applied Legal Studies the following reasons are given for this reluctance to testify.

Women see themselves as having secondary status in South African society and black women feel this even more acutely.  Society has public and private spheres and the prevailing belief is that ‘what happens in the privacy of the home is a personal affair’.  Thus women are afraid to reveal this side of their lives.

Women’s rights were rarely protected and though they are now protected under South Africa’s new Constitution the enforcement of those protections continues to be a major challenge.  Women devalue their experience and do not feel they are important enough to testify about the violations committed against them.  An additional difficulty is how human rights and the violation thereof is defined by both society and by women themselves.


The social stigma associated with the violations against women prevented them from coming forward.  Common beliefs included:



the victim will be seen to have colluded with their captor.


coming forward shows weakness.


testifying means selling out the ‘system’.


women ‘ask for it anyway!


For those women who participated in the training camps and who suffered violations at the hands of their comrades, they feel that loyalty to their political party prevents them from testifying and being perceived as an informer.  If women discloses that which is private, it will undermine their already tenuous status in society.  Self-blame, pride, shame and a desire to avoid reliving the trauma also prevented women from testifying.



   Back Home Up Next