Photographs fight the patriarchy


Walking down the street, Thandiwe Msebenzi can expect to be sexually harassed at least five times a day, 35 times per week. The burden of being objectified and pressured is an unrelenting weight for Msebenzi, who recognises the heaviness in the women around her. But Msebenzi refuses to allow others to dictate her body and mind. She is fighting back, freeing her emotions and her voice through photography.

“People don’t understand and know consent, and I felt like I wanted to do something about it,” Msebenzi says. “The first picture I took I didn’t realise that I was actually creating art.” Msebenzi graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town in 2014. In her final year, she was awarded the Tierney Fellowship, and has gone on to exhibit her work across South Africa. Msebenzi uses her art to push back against the patriarchal attitudes she experiences on a daily basis. “I have loved the medium of photography because I feel like I can challenge the way that I allow my viewers to look at my work,” she says. “It becomes special when it evokes an emotion, when it makes you hurt, when it makes you angry.”

Msebenzi doesn’t turn away from the men who seek to control her and others, choosing to confront them, and her feelings, head on. Rather than allowing her struggles to define her, she has taken back her power and created something both daring and beautiful in the process. Msebenzi uses her voice to encourage others to find their own strength and defy those who would see women as less-than. “Go as far as you possibly can,” she says.