Res4Res students

Res4Res Festival 2020 winners, from left, Hope Banda, Reatlegile Malatji and Thobile Mahlangu
Images: Supplied

Three creative women win UCT’s first virtual Res4Res Festival

Students respond to theme, ‘Your Silence Will Not Protect You’, with socio-political comment in video, art and words.

Res4Res students

Res4Res Festival 2020 winners, from left, Hope Banda, Reatlegile Malatji and Thobile Mahlangu
Images: Supplied

The three young women who won the 2020 Res4Res Festival each have used art to highlight socio-political issues affecting South Africa.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) held its annual Res4Res Festival online in 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This meant students had to rethink the format of their creative approach.

The theme, “Your Silence Will Not Protect You” is based on African-American author and poet Audre Lorde’s writings. Lorde’s collection was published posthumously in 2017.

This theme invited students to explore their understanding of current issues facing the country. It asked them what they believe South Africans are silent about.

Res4Res winners

South African artists Larissa Mwanyama, Ameera Conrad and Tailyn Ramsamy judged the entries and chose winners in three categories:

  • Video performance: Hope Banda
  • Visual: Reatlegile Malatji
  • Written: Thobile Mahlangu
Res4Res video Hope Banda UCT
Hope Banda. Image: Supplied

Students shine on virtual stage

While many students were anxious about appearing on a virtual stage, Banda loved it.

The 23-year-old theatre and performance student said it was “one of the best things that could have happened”.

“I’m so used to being on stage that doing this ‘virtually’ brought out something I never really knew I had,” said Banda.

19-year-old medical student Malatji said she is grateful for the introduction of the visual arts category.

“There were a few disadvantages such as the lack of live interaction that usually comes with the festival. But the challenge of a virtual festival has come with its own unique types of rewards,” said Malatji.

For 20-year-old psychology and English major Mahlangu, the virtual stage provided the chance for non-drama students to show off their talents.

“I was in awe reading all the written pieces, seeing the amount of care and work people put into their art.”

Thobile Mahlangu UCT
Thobile Mahlangu. Image: Supplied

Art with a purpose

When it came to the theme, the artists explored how silence can be complicit with acts of violence, or how it can be used as a weapon to protect.

Mahlangu sees the theme as pertinent to the current gender landscape of our country.

Her written monologue centres on a mother speaking about her daughter in an interview with a journalist. The mother recounts her experience of sending her daughter, who is lesbian, to conversion therapy.

“It explores the tumultuous relationship between sexuality and religion and themes such as the generational trauma that comes with being a woman,” explained Mahlangu.

Banda’s video performance displays her frustration with and rebellion against a patriarchal idea of women’s sexuality. She also shows how fearful she is as a female living South Africa.

“I was always made to feel like it was my fault because apparently showing skin meant I wanted to be touched,” Banda said.

“That final scream at the end of the video is homage to the many women who screamed for their lives and no one was there to help.”

Likewise, Malatji’s visual art piece has a personal inspiration. Her grandmother’s stories of hardships speak to the power of freedom of expression. They also refer to powerful words from women of today.

“We are all affected and impacted by our current reality of discrimination,” says Malatji.

“My grandmother taught me that we need to close our eyes, think and reflect. But, as we do this, open our mouths and speak.”

Res4Res Festival highlights importance of arts

The three winners say the festival shows the importance of using the arts for self-expression. It also creates socio-political awareness around issues in South Africa.

“Winning the category was an exciting and equally humbling experience,” said Malatji.

“It opened my eyes to the importance of allowing myself to spend time on what I am passionate about. Also, how that reflects in my mental well-being.”

Reatlegile Malatji UCT
Reatlegile Malatji.

According to Mahlangu, when creating art, the process is more fulfilling than what you think the final product ought to be.

“The reality is, you need to have confidence in yourself and your abilities.”

For Banda, the festival was an experience that taught her no one can take away your voice unless you give them the power to do so.

Advice for Res4Res 2021

Video winner Banda urges 2021 participants to think outside the confines of the theatre and Malatji suggests students take risks:

“Don’t let your thoughts restrain you. Embrace and allow them to translate into the work you had that initial interest in creating.”

Mahlangu added: “Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself by entering with a style or form of writing you’re unfamiliar with. You might end up surprising yourself!”