SA’s Dirty Laundry launched on 25 November 2016 to coincide with 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. As a creative project it attempted to bring awareness to the issue of rape in South Africa through the use of artivism. It further aimed to provoke a public and open dialogue about rape in our country, a difficult-to-ignore discussion attempting to connect to the greater narrative of South Africa through artistic intervention.

This approach is informed by the understanding that in sharing artistic or creative talent without ownership or commodity it may be possible to create a connection between people who give with no expectation of return. Thus the project started with 3 people combining their creative talents to become 6 people and then 3600 (and counting), all attempting to shift a country's way of thinking about love and power.

Through the project we hoped to reveal to every single individual we came across that each of us has the power and ability to effect a change simply by being involved, standing up, taking action and not being silent. We also wanted to show that it is possible to have a voice and to be heard - even when using an item like underwear to speak for you, for us. That art can create change.

If you visited the Maboneng precinct in Johannesburg in late 2016, you would have seen 3600 pairs of used underwear hanging on a 1.2 kilometre long washing line between Fox, Albrecht and Kruger streets. You would also have seen a woman putting her body on the line by stripping off the layers of clothing that en-role her as an object because of her gender, removing layer after layer of soiled white panties until she stood in the street, naked, with only a pair of childhood panties as covering.

Women (and men) from all over South Africa (and others from countries around the globe) who wished to share their stories of rape, donated their own underwear to make up the installation. SA’s Dirty Laundry asked South Africans to see their own story in one of the 3600 pieces of dirty underwear. It introduces a new protest language- art- a present tense.

This was the vision and work of visual artist Jenny Nijenhuis and performance artist, Nondumiso Lwazi Msimanga, who set out to represent the 3600 rapes that are estimated to take place in South Africa every day by collaborating and hosting with Tanya Pampalone of SoMa Art + Space on this project.

SA’s Dirty Laundry further curated and choreographed a visual art exhibition and street performances under the title The Things We Do for Love. Love being understood as a revolutionary sentiment that demands action, as various notable revolutionaries have espoused. The artivism featured the work of various South African visual artists; and Wits University students.

In order to successfully produce the installation we needed to collect 3600 pairs of panties and underpants. This underwear was collected by donation from individuals and through a call for panties via various social media channels.

  1. Artivism is a portmanteau word combining "art" and "activism"
  2. The Medical Research Council estimated (in a 2013 study) this to be the number of rapes that could have happened daily in SA if their study on 25 women in Gauteng were used as the basis for extrapolating a national number (Clouder, 2013: 207). This number is itself flawed, as various statistics on rape are admittedly so, but provided a number to work from that would allow the art to have radical visual impact.