I would like to respond to the text of Karoo Moose by Lara foot Newton. The way in which the rape scene is depicted in the text hardly leaves any scope of agency for the victim, Thozama. Even her expressions are effaced by her tormentors by putting a net on her face. I feel this very way of portrayal of victimization of the woman makes her a subject of passive receptance and objectifies her sexuality. Though the game of football, a masculine game to the core, played by her molesters very aptly brings out the gendered aspect of the violence targeted at her, yet her complete lack of response at the football thrown at her makes her an inanimate object, devoid of subjectivity. She is indeed a small girl of fifteen, and it quite justified to be “defenseless” and “terrified” in a situation, where her own father barters her to her rapists. But for a courageous spirit like Thozama, who becomes the “moose-girl”, saves her sister and her daughter from Khola’s evil intensions, this kind of passivity distorts the very representation of trauma. The representation of trauma ought to empower the victim of trauma, not subject him/her to relive the moment of trauma. I believe the onstage version of this play has the potential to redo this matter of abject anonymousness of the victim. The two scenes: “the rape scene” and “the moose killing scene”, if done simultaneously might give an agency to the victimized. But the two scenes together might also cause confusion for the audience. Therefore a probable solution would be to do “the moose killing scene” in shadow. The net that covers Thozama’s face has to be removed and as she becomes subject to rape, she could respond to the actions of her friends who are on the moose hunt. This utter disjunction of action and emotion would give Thozama an empowered agency, nonetheless traumatized but non-negotiable and unputdownable. Her body might become the site of perpetuating terror and trauma but her mind remains free and brave and wild as the moose, she hunts. The fact that “rape” violates the body brutally is a fact, but it is also a fact that the female entity does not comprise of only of her violated persona, she is not a product of her disfigured organs, she is not only limited to the fragmented objectification of her mutilators. Thozama, as an entity rises above ‘just being a victim’; therefore I find her silent succumbing to her rapists in the rape scene as a masculine appropriation of a traumatic moment like “rape”, a way of dominating her outrageous courage, which they are unable to do till the end.
October 23, 2014
How do you create performance that attempts to deconstruct violence rather than replicating it? How do we 'safely' comment on and represent trauma without potentially re-traumatising?
These are some of the questions that arose in our discussion with Yvette last Monday (13th) that focused on the aesthetic of embodied activism in contemporary South African women. We touched upon the problematic nature of touring for companies who produce this style of work in the region, considering a reliance on the use of symbol and ritual which act as clear signifiers for the local community but not beyond. And yet these issues are universality grappled with and experienced.
The use of the term 'safely' alerts me to our continued taboo when we encounter gendered violence. There is often a keen tendency to maintain our distance. I myself am reluctant to admit I am engaging with discussions regarding rape or sexual assault simply because such etymology continues to carry that sense of shame; words that feel almost illegal when spoken aloud (I am reminded of a novel I have recently been reading by J M Coetzee, 'Disgrace' which I recommend to everyone) Ideas that if in doubt, we shouldn't be discussing at all.
And yet discussion is exactly what should be happening. As shown through some of the performances we examined, from Yael Farber's 'MoLoRa' to Mothertongue's 'Walk: South Africa', theatre can act as an outlet for therapeutic discussion and help in implementing a 'it's good to talk about it' attitude towards gendered violence. However the potential problem of recreating traumatic experience still flags itself up as an issue, even more enhanced when the director or creator of the piece is not home-grown. So how much local awareness does an artist need to have to be considered able to enter into the debate? If they themselves have not experienced gendered violence directly, are they still liable to deconstruct it through the use of performance?
When we consider artists who, like Brett Bailey, who are attacked for having an orientalist lens (as with Exhibit B, which was recently 'boycotted' and closed at the Barbican Centre, London) - or like Peter Brook's famous Mahabharata, enacting ideas that are out of their depth - we reach examples that hit just too close to home, crossing the fine line that exists when representing violence in a performative setting. So where is that fine line and how can we avoid crossing it?
Ultimately, who is responsible and when are discussions around gendered violence ever 'safe'?
- just some of my (semi-incoherent) musings on this session, hope they spark some thoughts/discussion.
My best to all!
October 22, 2014
here's a link to a short fim made by a French director Eleonore Pourriat. It went viral on the internet couple of months ago and was lively discussed in the European media.
It portrays an imagined "feminist" society, as it's stated at the end of the film, where women take over the roles of men. In one of the interviews, Eleonore Pourriat, the director, said that through inversion of the male and female roles she wanted to sensitize spectators to gender injustice/sexism.This is, no doubt, a very noble enterprise, but I'm wondering if we're aren't seeing something else in this short video?!
At the end of the film the main male character says, he cant stand this "feminist society" anymore. So this is what a feminist society is supposed to look like? A world where men are opressed by women?
This is just to say that even highly and well motivated directors - intending sth good - operate the same repertoire of predominantly 'masculine' visions of a feminist society.
This is just to say that feminism is not about inverting gender roles.
Feminism is not about inverting patriarchy.
It's about ending it.