“Unsilence our Violence: Shout!” - Addressing violence against women and girls through theatre

“Unsilence our Violence: Shout!” - Addressing violence against women and girls through theatre – Blog

“Unsilence our Violence: Shout!” was a theatre piece created and performed by New World Foundation based in Lavender Hill and Vrygrond for the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women and Children Campaign 2014.

“Unsilence our Violence: Shout!” was a theatre piece created and performed by New World Foundation based in Lavender Hill and Vrygrond for the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women and Children Campaign 2014.

Guest blogpost by Kim Pillay-Constant, Programme Manager, New World Foundation

“Unsilence our Violence: Shout!” was a theatre piece created and performed by New World Foundation based in Lavender Hill and Vrygrond for the 16days of Activism Against Violence Against Women and Children Campaign 2014. It was performed free of charge on 2 Dec at 10am, 3 Dec at 2pm and 4 Dec at 7pm. The play reflected examples of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) that commonly take place in the Lavender Hill community.

The play began with the music of the song “Shout” where South African musicians sing to raise awareness of the high crime in South Africa. This played to a 6minute powerpoint 30 slide presentation with statistics of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in the Western Cape done by Genderlinks, a gender and media organisation based in Johannesburg.  Some of the slides read as follows:

  • The most common form of violence against women (VAW) is intimate partner violence (IPV).
  • Only 1 out of 40 off the women that were physically abused actually reported the incidents to the police.
  • The least reported of Violence Against Women (VAW) is attempted rape
  • A marginal 2% of women that were raped actually reported the incident to police in their lifetime.

The cast had to talk and act exactly the way residents of Lavender Hill do, with the Cape slang and swearing, and especially the high levels of violence. The play content was researched and workshopped by NWF staff who performed and directed it.

A community member shares her story of 10 years of being abused
One scene was of a 15year old girl who tells of her experiences of having a 23-year-old boyfriend who violates her privacy by posting naked pictures of her publicly; another scene was of a mother who had found a letter written for her by her daughter who explains that she was raped by someone known to her, namely her uncle; a third scene was of an abusive jolling (adulterous) husband and his wife that tries to stand up for herself and a fourth scene of an abused suicidal woman who realises after all that there is help out there for her and sings a song of “Really Perfect” by the artist “Pink”. Added scenes with the first being of skinner (hearsay) from the neighbourhood with all 4 cast members and a finale shopping scene where the characters could shop for exactly what they needed to heal and overcome the violence they endured.      

The play lasts for about half an hour and is followed by a discussion facilitated by NWF with the cast, director and audience members. The discussions that followed all three performances were insightful and moving.

Written feedback from the audience
The first performance had an audience of 48 people, mainly middle aged and elderly women. Four women were emotional and cried when sharing incidents of violence they had experienced and overcome. They requested that we must do more of these plays that reflect their lives in Lavender Hill as it helped them speak about their issues and to help them heal from pain they had stored in themselves.

The second performance saw 76 spectators, the majority of them children. Interestingly, while only a few adults spoke there were four young boys who spoke out clearly against the abuse of children and all reiterated that the play made them sad. We asked the children then of what help is there for children and they had many ideas and answers and most importantly all the children believed that there is help out there for them.

The third performance had once again an audience of 48 people members who followed the electricity loadshedding and the well loved South African television soapie Sevende Laan, which again drew many children and one third of adults. Many of the children had watched the play already and wanted to view it again. One woman stated that this was her third time watching the play. Many people in the audience requested to perform such productions again for the community.

After each performance we invited audience members to write on small pieces of paper their thoughts, suggestions and ideas, and pin them onto a board. The discussions and the written feedback confirmed that theatre is a powerful tool to engage communities around monstrous social problems, helping them to address the community and the problem collectively and with their suggestions and commitment.

One of New World Foundation’s three organisational goals is to create safe spaces and enable social cohesion and thus a safe space was created on a difficult topic with open and sincere community engagement using theatre.