[intro]The widows of Marikana have participated in an arts project through which they give expression to their pain and hopes. Their works were on display at an exhibition at the University of the Free State last week.[/intro]

It was Annette Messager, the French visual artist, who once said that “being an artist means forever healing your wounds and at the same time endlessly exposing them.”

This is true, too, in the case of the Marikana widows who, with the help of the Khulumani Support Group, discovered that art can help them come to terms with the 16 August, 2012 tragedy that saw 34 striking miners killed by heavily armed South African police.

This week the University of the Free State co-hosted a panel discussion and art exhibition under the title “Speaking Wounds: Voices of Marikana Widows through Art and Narrative”.

Panellists included Dr Marjorie Jobson, National Director of Khulumani Support Group, as well as Nomfundo Walaza, former CEO of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre and trained clinical psychologist, who has worked with victims of trauma, violence and torture. Judy Seidman, who is a sociologist, graphic artist and Khulumani Support Group facilitator worked with the “Widows of Marikana” to create visual artworks that consists of body map drawings, as well as hand drawings which are currently on display at the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice.


Image courtesy of Nomusa Mthethwa

Last year The Journalist published extracts from eight narratives, told through the art of the widows whose lives were shattered by the tragedy of the Marikana massacre.

“I won’t forget the day,” wrote Agnes Makopano Thelejane. “I am left with the burden of raising my children, and of doing whatever was going to be done by my husband. Even now, as we sit here listening to this commission, we are in a state of poverty, we are hungry, we don’t have anything to give our children. I am still saying I don’t know who is going to take this burden that I have.”

“This is my picture as you see me, putting my hands straight on my heart,” wrote Ntombizokile Mosebetsane. “I try to comfort myself, because of the tragedy, where I saw my husband and other workers being killed in that Marikana Massacre.”

“When we think of Marikana we think of the men who were killed there. Very rarely do we ever think about the widows; the ones who are left behind, the ones who run the home, the ones who are most affected by the tragedy. The ones we sometimes call the “silent victims” of the massacre,” said Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, who chaired the discussion, elaborating on the massacres’ repercussions, which are experienced by the loved ones left behind, those who are thrown into a state of hopelessness.


“Making something can be liberating,” said Judy Seidman while explaining the creative process that culminated into a body of art that tells the stories of the women who suffered the full impact of the massacre. She explained how Khulumani’s goal was to change the “victims into victors” by integrating visual art and lived-narratives.

“The pain remains in the body”

“Survivors are assisted to make meaning of a senseless tragedy,” Nomfundo Walaza said. She further deliberated about the importance of “creating space where women can also tell their stories.”

No one will ever understand what went through the minds of the widows when the tragedy happened. However, the women, through their art, offer us a glimpse of what it felt like.

Indeed, Art tells more than a thousand words. It is a way of healing your wounds too. The wounds of the widows of Marikana speak.