Welcome speech

by NomaRussia Bonase

It is a great honour for us to have this opportunity to present this exhibition of art-work by and about the widows of the Marikana massacre, that terrible time that happened in August 2012, at the platinum mines in South Africa.

This exhibition shows the output of several art-making workshops held with the relatives of men killed in that massacre.  In these workshops, these women drew and painted for the first time in their lives, finding a way to create and express the soul-shattering experience of the massacre of those they loved.  Making these works of art gave these women a way to break the silence; it took them beyond sitting silent, treated as no more than stones in the path, with no voice to tell what they feel and know and hope.

This exhibition is about the understanding, creativity, and skill of ordinary women from the grassroots, sharing their knowledge and experience, voicing out their pain, through the first steps of that long journey towards healing, peace-building, and reconciliation.  The pictures speak to restoration of human dignity, to the transformation of lives through the struggle for redress, reparation, and restorative justice.  It is also a song of hope; and a promise; that as we look at the wealth dug from our soil, and taken in distress out of our lives, that one day we will plough back the fruits.

In making these pictures, and showing them, we hope to touch the hearts of caring people throughout the world.  We hope to make sure that the stories of the Marikana widows reaches out to everybody in every country; to make sure that we as human beings work together to stop such violations of our humanity.

I, who address you today, am NomaRussia Bonase, national organizer of Khulumani Support Group. Khulumani means We are speaking out, in Zulu.  Khulumani is a membership-based organization started by women activists in 1995, to support people whose human rights were damaged by the crime against humanity called apartheid.  Khulumani was formed when South Africa’s parliament planned to set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to find truth and justice for apartheid violations – without seeking the participation of those who carried the costs of the struggle against apartheid in their own minds and bodies.

One tool that Khulumani has developed to help people rebuild damaged lives is the process we call the Art, Healing and Heritage workshops.  This is the tool we used with the Marikana widows.

This exhibition also includes several artworks from of another of Khulumani’s workshops, held in Zamdela, Sasolburg, with ex-workers who survived a deadly industrial strike in 1987- 88, in the depths of apartheid repression. We believe that themes of despair and hope, struggle and vision, echo between the art of these two workshops, in Zamdela and Marikana.  In South Africa, we so often say:  against the trauma and the pain we hold up truth, reconciliation, and reparation; and the commitment that this must not happen again.  Yet a quarter of a century after the Sasol strike, it happened again at Marikana.

The creativity and inspiration of these works here, is for the rebirth of hope and vision, out of the dark pits of our pain.  I believe this work is speaking to us; and this is what it says.

I thank all of you who have come to view this art, this vision.  Your presence and interest, your involvement, gives us hope and energy to do more.  We will never give up in our struggle towards social, economic and cultural justice, to assert our human dignity, a candle of hope for all of us in this world today.