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Afems Digital Event - 10 September 2020, 16-18h (Pretoria time)


Healing as a Revolutionary Act

Featuring:  Mmatshilo Motsei’s webinar “ Conversations with my Womb”

Including an introduction by Barbara Boswell, video-poetry by various artists, and an optional feminist wine-down (bring your own booze)

Pre-event activity: Shelley Barry “Watch Party” 7th - 11th Sept on:


Registration deadline: 9th Sept 23h00 ( Pretoria time)

Registration Email:

Max participants : first 90 people to register, otherwise live-streamed on:


Mmatshilo Motsei Biography

Mmatshilo Motsei is an author, speaker and spiritual health coach with a keen interest in integrating indigenous wisdom with modern innovations. With an MA in Creative Writing, she started her career as a nurse, midwife, psychology graduate, social science researcher and rural development facilitator. She is currently registered for a PhD in Sociology at the University of Pretoria focusing on obstetric violence with a view of challenging feminist erasure of indigenous midwifery in their critique of medicalisation of childbirth.   

For over 10 years, she worked as a Founding Director Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (ADAPT), an organisation working on domestic and sexual violence based in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg. She was also involved as a co-founder of Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy for Women based in Johannesburg. In addition to working with women, she has been instrumental in involving men as part of the solution to violence against women. In 1997, she organised the first men’s march against rape in Alexandra Township. Part of her work with men include using art as a tool for healing for men in and out of prison.

In 2014, she was contracted by HIVOS in Harare to replicate a model that integrates gender, gender violence and microcredit finance with rural women across Zimbabwe. She has worked with women across Africa. This includes working with women who were raped during the war in Mogadishu, Somalia. Beyond Africa, she has worked with various institutions in USA, Australia, Canada, Europe and Nepal.

In October 2013, she undertook a 7 day climb of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Tsogang Basadi Orphans Project in Maviljan village, Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga.

She is the author of several books, Hearing Visions Seeing Voices as well as The Kanga and the Kangaroo Court: Reflections on the Rape Trial of Jacob Zuma, Reweaving the Soul of the Nation, a collection of essays on African spirituality, politics and feminism. She has also published a collection of poetry in Setswana and English, Sesesedi Whirlwind.

She is the Founding Director of Afrika Ikalafe Centre for Spirituality and Health. Aptly called Afrika Ikalafe, which means 'Afrika Heal Thyself', the work of the Centre serves as an invitation for Africa to challenge the lie of its inferiority and powerlessness. Her current project, Marumo Fatshe, is advocating for an exploration of the African indigenous healing justice framework in responding to gender-based violence in South Africa. 


Shelley Barry Biography

Shelley was awarded a full scholarship from the Ford Foundation to study towards her Master of Fine Arts in Film in the United States and graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia in 2006. Her films span across genres and are largely experimental in style. She often shoots her own films, exploring the aesthetics of cinematography from the perspective of a wheelchair user. Screenings of her work have been held at major festivals and events around the world and acquired by television, including MTV, DUTV and WYBE in the U.S and SABC and etv in South Africa. New York University is one of the international libraries that has purchased her work.

Awards include an Audre Lorde scholarship for film production, Distinguished Graduate Student Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Graduate schools and Best film awards at international festivals in NYC, Canada, Moscow, San Francisco, Toronto, Philadelphia and New Jersey for her first film, an experimental documentary titled Whole- A Trinity of Being. Her thesis film, Where we planted trees, was awarded Best Documentary at the Diamond Screen film festival in Philadelphia and selected for the Encounters South African International Film Festival in 2011. Inclinations, executive produced by Cheryl Dunye, was acquired by MTV and made the top ten best click list on their online site. etv commissioned Diaries of a Dissident Poet on poet James Matthews, which was broadcast nationally in 2019.

Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, Shelley completed graduate studies in English and Drama at the University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape. She has worked extensively as a disability rights activist, following a shooting in the Cape taxi wars of 1996 that resulted in her being a wheelchair user. She has held positions as Media Manager in the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons in the Presidency and as the National Parliamentary Policy Co-ordinator for Disabled People South Africa. During this time she co-ordinated President Nelson Mandela’s guard of honour for his State of Nation address in 1997.

In the area of visual media, she completed a short video course with acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair and worked in television as the Programme Compliance Advisor for South Africa's first independent television station, She was a Carnegie scholar in residence at the University of the Witwatersrand where she was based as a filmmaker from 2007-2008. During this period she made new films and taught experimental cinema and short fiction production. She also taught documentary at Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking and at the University of the Western Cape where she pioneered filmmaking in the Women’s and Gender studies department. In 2010, Shelley was hosted at The New York African Film Festival where her experimental films screened at The New Museum as part of a program on New directions in African cinema. Shelley developed the Programming department at Cape Town TV (CTV) - a community tv station advocating human rights and social justice where she was based as Programme Manager from July 2008-January 2010. During this time she also ran training workshops in filmmaking, particularly for those who have not had an opportunity to tell their stories.

Shelley is the founder and director of twospinningwheels, a production company that aims to explore new languages in cinema and marginalised voices having access to the craft of filmmaking. She was selected to be on the SA film delegations to MIPCOM, France, The European Film Market, Berlin, The Rio Content Market, Brazil, Cannes, France and The Tribeca Film Festival, New York.  Her most recent work, HERE, a virtual reality film was selected for the Berlinale 2020. Shelley is currently based at The University of Johannesburg where she teaches film. She commenced her Creative PhD in film at The University of the Witwatersrand in 2018, with a grant for her creative work from JustFilms, Ford Foundation, New York.



Documentary about Shelley and her work:



Jaliya The Bird

Jaliya The Bird is a writer, poet, performer born in Angola, raised in South Africa. The artist creates [Inter]Sessions:UnSpoken Words. [Inter]Sessions is provoking, celebrating, releasing emotion and thought through storytelling, writing, poetry, and performance art. The work explores Womanhood, Blackness, Pan-Africanism with a focus on freedom and authenticity, living life from the core of who we are as we respond to the causes that move us. 


Buhle Siwendu Biography

Buhle Siwendu is an artist and teacher by profession. She works across disciplines like painting, mixed media and performance art. Siwendu’s work focuses on the female body and notions of identity, appreciation and culture relation in South Africa. Siwendu holds a B.Tech in Fine from Walter Sisulu, an Honours in Art History and Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) from Rhodes University (RU).

In 2015, Siwendu participated in the Walter Sisulu University of Fine Art student exhibition during the National Arts Festival in Makhanda. Siwendu co-curated a group exhibition with Prof Sharlene Khan under the theme Six Mountains on her Back: (Re)reading African Feminisms Colloquium (2017), as part of the Afems Conference held at Rhodes University Department of Fine Art. In the same conference and under the same theme, Siwendu also collaborated with Tayla Solomon to create mixed media artworks that are in the collection of the Department of Literary Studies in English at Rhodes University. In 2018, she collaborated in a performance piece with Philiswa Lila, entitled Ntombikayise. Siwendu artworks are in the private collection of keynote speakers who were invited for the Afems conference The Mute Always Speak (2018) held at Rhodes University. She was part of the group exhibition Theorising from the Epicentres of our Agency.


Isang Mokolobate Biography 

Isang Mokolobate is a visual artist who specialises in mixed media drawings and digital prints. He holds a Diploma in Fine and applied Arts from the Tshwane University of Technology. In the past decade, Mokolobate has worked as a qualified videographer and video editor for Supersport company channels and Kwese. His amalgamation of creative disciplines is a process that offers him various concepts when experimenting with video creation and graphics design as well as mixed media art projects.

In his work, Mokolobate is influenced by his upbringing and where he was born, in the dusty town of Mafikeng in the North western province of South Africa. He was raised in a predominantly Setswana cultural background under the parenting of a single mother who is a traditional healer, but mixed with heavy Christian “Methodist” beliefs. Mokolobate digs deeper into the intricate knowledge of African spiritual systems as well as the spiritual systems of the world as a way of understanding the self. His artworks are fuelled by what he says is a “complicated upbringing” where he finds himself questioning and deconstructing the polarities and binary opposites in his upbringing, in order to explore the multiplicities of identities, Deities, histories and beliefs.

Philiswa Lila Biography

Philiswa Lila is a visual artist, curator and scholar fascinated by the socially relevant and timely issues of authorship and agency. Lila holds an Honours in Curatorship from UCT and a B.Tech in Fine and Applied Arts from TUT. Lila works across disciplines like painting, installation and performance art. She is interests are in memory histories and theories of personal identities. Her materials of choice include animal skin (sheep, goat and cow), beading, wood, paper, canvas and video. Some of her ongoing projects explore individual experiences as recognisable or familiar narratives to collective frameworks of culture – mainly in isiXhosa but also aware of the interconnectedness of cultures in South Africa.

Lila became the 2018 recipient of the prestigious Gerald Sekoto Award, which included a residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris. The artworks produces in Paris are in her debut solo exhibition entitles Skin, Bone, Fire: The First Album which was first hosted by the Absa Gallery and will be touring to various venues in South Africa.

Her achievements include residency programs at the Bag Factory Studios in Johannesburg and Greatmore Studios in Cape Town. Selected group exhibitions and collections: University of South African Acquisitions, Joburg Art Fair Dialogue with Masters, Pretoria Art Museum Neo Emergence, Review Exhibition for Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital Trust, Sculptx, Speculative Enquiry 1, to mention a few. Through her representation with The Melrose Gallery, Dr. Esther Mahlangu selected Lila as an ‘artist to watch’ for the 2019 SEED auction. Lila is represented by The Melrose Gallery.

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