This is a story about my lipstick art, Johannesburg-based psychologist Sheetal Vallabh and a new NGO called  Lawyers Against Abuse. One afternoon just before my first solo exhibition, Sheetal walked into the shop where my art was being framed. She loved the work she saw, we met, she brought her friends to the exhibition, and I suggested that we do something for the NGO that she is involved with.

Great white shark

This is the painting that first interested Sheetal.

I’ve always explored gender themes in my art – using lipstick means that the medium really is the message – and when I found out about the work that LvA is doing to assist women and children otherwise let down by the system, I thought that art offered a very obvious way, not just to help raise funds, but to tell the story of what they do. 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is a mouthful, but it offers us an opportunity to focus attention on what LvA does and the importance of getting the resources it needs to help those who have nowhere else to turn.

LvA logoLawyers Against Abuse (LvA) provides direct and urgent legal services to survivors of gender-based violence. South Africa has some of the world’s highest rates of gender-based violence, and so many victims fall through the cracks. It’s the role of LvA to step in when needed and ensure that victims get the justice to which they’re entitled under the Constitution. They could do so much more – but they need funds to hire a full time attorney to work on more cases.

When I was looking for a concept for a painting that encapsulates the work that LvA does, I was immediately drawn to the secretary bird that features in our national coat of arms. Its outstretched wings echoed the raised arms of a child expressing joy in a world where she is free to express who she is without fear. The painting includes quotes from our constitution which guarantee equal rights and human dignity for all, but which all to frequently require the intervention of organizations like LvA to be made meaningful.

On November 28, the work you see on this site as well as work by others will be auctioned at a cocktail evening to raise funds for LvA. It promises to be an evening of fine food and glorious Joburg summer weather, and I hope that those who buy the work will go home, not just with a piece of art, but a story too – and the knowledge that they are helping LvA to take meaningful action to assist in a huge problem that has so many of us wringing our hands, but so few of us actually doing anything about it.

Let’s help make this 16 days of action – not just words.


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