F Word exhibition in Berlin

Image of Maria Magdalena van Wyk South African Illustrator

Illustrator: Maria Magdalena van Wyk
Venue: Level Eight, Max-Beer Str. 31, Berlin, Germany 10119
Dates: 7 – 8 September 2017
Time: 18:00 – 22:00

Brief Biography of the Illustrator:

“First and foremost: I am wonderfully flawed, vulnerable and authentic.”

I am a small town girl, second daughter to a minister and pre-school teacher, who raised me to appreciate simplicity, art, music and literature. Maria Magdalena is our traditional Afrikaans family name: second daughter named after the paternal grandmother. I cherish and share the name with two of my darling cousins.

Drawing is simply a part of who I am. It is how I express my love to family and friends. Never once did it cross my mind as a career path but when I look back now it all seems comically inevitable.

Sharing my illustrations with the world started in a small church in Cape Town, South Africa, where we auctioned off my first fine art print to raise funds. A month after launching my first collection it was picked up by bloggers and I was chosen as one of Africa’s Emerging Creatives at the International Design Indaba.

My brand is an extension of my heart and hands. Every single day that I get to call this my job is an absolute blessing. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to each and every person who has supported my illustration journey.

Exhibition synopsis:

An artistic exploration aimed at empowering females that have been raped or physically abused in Africa. Finding a way to not only help the individual, but creating awareness, eradicating the shame of admitting to it and guiding the community to best join hands in the fight against it.

Interview with Michelle Hattingh:

Michelle Hattingh was born in South Africa in 1988 and holds an Honours in Psychology from the University of Cape Town. She lives in bustling Kloof Street, Cape Town with her partner and two cats. She currently works as content manager at an NGO, Praekelt.org. She works on projects that provide sexual and reproductive health support and education to youth in Sub-Saharan Africa, and on projects which support nurses in South Africa.

‘I’m the girl who was raped’ is her first book. The North American rights to the book was bought by Inanna Publications and the Australian rights by Spinifex.

1. Why did you write this beautifully raw and deeply personal account of your rape? (To deal with it through creativity, to create awareness?)

I wrote it for myself. I started writing stories when I was eleven years old and I haven’t stopped. After I was raped, writing about it was the only way I could cope and make sense of it. It was a cathartic process that helped me heal. I wrote it like you would write a diary and only halfway through I realized it could be a book.

When I realized it was a book, I wrote it for everyone who had been raped but couldn’t tell the world what they’ve been through.

2. Before the rape, how did you feel about your body compared to after?

I’ve never loved my body; it’s always been a space of struggle. I’ve fought too many battles against my skin.

The rape fuelled my hatred for it. I punished my body by eating too much or not at all. My skin would swell and burst and shrink, leaving angry stretch marks as a reminder of what I’ve done to it.

I would love to say that my healing process has included coming to terms with and loving my body but it has not. Instead my body and I have come to an uneasy truce. We respect each other but some days are better than others.

3. How do you view sexual experiences presently?

Presently I view myself as master of my sexual experiences.

When you are raped, your ownership of your own body is taken away from you. Your body is under someone else’s control and that other person decides what happens next. You have no choice in the matter.

Rape is not about sex, it’s about power. So to feel powerful in your sex life is the ultimate form of freedom

The next step is to transcend feeling powerful and to simply know that you are. I’m not there yet but I know I will be.

4. As simply a female, what about your appearance do you find most beautiful?

I like my eyes. I like that they are a deep, rich green and how they are framed by bushy, unruly eyebrows. It feels like it best represents who I am.

5. Looking back at your childhood and adolescence, where do you feel your insecurities came from?

My physical insecurities started when I was very young as I grew up in a household where eating disorders were rife. I enjoyed eating but when no one else ate I would feel ashamed. I started punishing myself by eating too much at a very young age.

From when I was about 11 or 12 I was already taller and bigger than my two sisters and my mother. This fuelled my obsession with my size as well. No matter what my size, I always feel like I’m living up to the title that I gave myself as “the fat one”.

6. If you could speak directly to women who have been raped, what message would you most like to get across?

I want them to know that they are not alone. That they are worthy. That it’s not their fault. Mostly I would like to hug them tight because some things transcend words and pictures.

7. On a scale from 1 – 10, how would you rate your self worth with regards to your physical appearance? Feel free to simply write a number or elaborate briefly.

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8. On a scale from 1 – 10, how would you rate your self worth with regards to your achievements? Feel free to simply write a number or elaborate briefly.

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9. What would you most like to gain through this photoshoot and as a muse for artistic expression?

I would to see myself as beautiful.

10. Favourite quote:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anis Nin

11. In your own words and experience, what is feminism?

Feminism is, simply put, equality. You should not confused equality with sameness though. The most important sign of equality is choice: whether you can choose to do or care about something.

I cannot choose whether or not to care about rape, that is a luxury afforded only to some men. As soon as you can choose NOT to care about something, you are privileged.

My feminism has been a gift to me as it’s made me aware not only of how society mistreats women but also of my privilege as a middle class white woman.

12. How can we as a community contribute to the fight against rape and physical abuse?

I think gender based violence is such an overwhelming topic, it can be really difficult to know if you can make a difference and how you can go about doing it.

I believe that it starts with small things like making people uncomfortable. Don’t laugh at the rape joke at the braai. Insist on the same salary that your male counterpart has. Refuse to blame victims who were “drunk” or wearing “inappropriate clothing” for sexual assaults.

And if you know someone who has been a victim of gender violence, talk to them. Be there for them. Sit with them and listen to them.

If we all did that, it would make a huge difference.

13. What is your chosen charity to donate to or volunteer?

The rape crisis center.

Female Contours illustration by Maria Magdalena van Wyk

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