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Thursday, June 2, 2022


(Right: Coral Bijoux)

Finally, after many years the consolidated experience of the Voices of Women Museum (VoWM) is now virtual. And while the concept ‘museum’ is up for constant debate, this space speaks for itself in the form of the building in downtown Durban, 168 Palmer Street.

The building, which sits as a metaphor for what this museum is, developed as a concept in 2012, from its substantial collection of about 3,000 women’s narratives and story cloths. 

In 2017, while the organisers were full of hope for this home which began as the first physical museum space for the Voices of Women until the national lockdown, riots, and flooding gave them the final push to locate it in cyberspace. The archive had been moved and sits in a safe, dry space, while the museum has a new life based on the Palmer Street building in its 3-D virtual form. 

“After travelling around South Africa in the form of curated exhibitions, the VoWM found its physical home temporarily in a building nuanced with odd corners, floors one could view work through, and a ‘masculine’ street with cars, car dealerships and car body shops; some debris, urine and faeces for added measure,” says Coral Bijoux, curator of the VoWM. “It was also a space that rained down the walls, through the roof, and onto the exhibition space. We needed a solution that would safeguard the precious works of narrative for future generations.

“People of all ages engage the narratives within a contemporary context while we consider that to be a woman means many things, particularly in South Africa. “It’s the way we walk, talk, engage, make, create, challenge, sit, laugh, sometimes victimised, but always powerful,” we say.

“‘We’ also refers to the individual in the collective. Diverse in outlook, experience, genders, and descriptions, we are loosely, as one,“ Bijoux continues.

“We open this space, virtually and invite you to visit, engage and support us. It is a work in progress but begins its new phase with a group of interested people in the form of our advisory panel and our curatorial team.

“The museum will continue its work quietly and sometimes not so quietly through a platform that will encourage us to take our voices and use them as they should – speaking sometimes into the proverbial void, but speaking also to those who want to listen, hear, engage. 

“Our partner, the MTN SA Foundation, has been instrumental in getting us this far with a nominal budget set aside each year for our work. To a large extent, much of the work is done voluntarily, which makes this outcome so much more rewarding.”

Niel Nortje, Manager: MTN Art Collection, says: “This project is the culmination of a longstanding partnership with the VoWM. Our endeavour into the digital space solidifies MTN’s ambition to find digital and technological solutions that educate a broad audience on South Africa’s art, culture and heritage while participating in the sector’s contribution towards gender studies and social cohesion.” 

The link will take you straight into the museum while the organisation continues to prepare and navigate the newly developing website and online platform to host access to the 3-D museum space. Later this year, they will launch the Voices of Women annual exhibition curated by three young dynamic women and a full launch of the virtual museum and platform. 

The virtual Voices of Women Museum link:

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