I mentioned recently that I’ve started my Her Story Project. I’m really excited by the prospect of the impact this project is going to have on the women who tell their stories and the women who read them.
I believe that each one of us has a story to tell and in each story, there’s a lesson to be learned. No matter how seemingly insignificant we think our story is, when we tell it, we have no idea how that story can help someone else. It might be just the thing they need to hear at just the time they need to hear it. You may describe your story in such a way that it resonates with a reader or your situation may be similar to hers, helping her to see the positive side to what might feel like a negative experience.
As part of the project I will be creating a handful of fine art images to coincide with some of the stories these women are willing to share.
Here’s Tyler, a 22 year old university student studying graphic design. She faced the gale force winds, stinging sand blasting and freezing temperatures to help create this image.
… and here’s Tyler’s story…
What struggle have you overcome to be who you are today?
I believe as women we are set to endure many obstacles. Everyone has their fight and mine was overcoming the appearance and life of a mixed race woman. As a young girl I was awkward with a very big forehead knock-knead, pigeon toed and a large head of bushy curls. These attributes set me rather far apart from the other pale kids as well as the kids of colour, which proved rather difficult. School kids can be mean and cruel but my fathers preferences were seemingly more breaking. I myself was light enough to pass as white (with enough clips and gel) whereas my brother and mother with their golden radiant brown skin were mocked and spat on. This left me torn and broken – did being pale mean I had to chose? I resented my complexion and hair and contradicting features and thoughts. This made me angry and defensive but worst of all, an individual who sought to conform. This I believe is not only my biggest problem but societies too, to fit the cruel expectations of a narrowed ‘mold’ of beauty and acceptability.
Where do you find your strength and resilience?
I find my strength in God and the family and support system I have. It may not be a big one but it is bountiful. My resilience is a characteristic I inherited from my mother, a single mother who never considered bills and constrictions and fights to give me her best every waking moment she has. I was taught how to further master resilience through my beautifully strong headed sister who’s womanly fire is unquenchable.
How are you inspiring positive change today, in yourself and in others?
I am inspiring positive change in my own life in the acceptance of who I am and pushing for who I can be without the classification society needs for me to be placed within to give others comfort. I aim to create further positive change through the art and designs I create and the concept they adopt in order to make others think further than what affects the viewer and eradicate the use and thought of a ‘they’ or ‘them’ and adopt a mentality of an us.
What do you think has the biggest impact on women’s confidence? Please explain why you think that.<
The way each woman perceives herself and whether or not that woman allows others to dictate her worth and capabilities has a huge impact on confidence. I believe this because as women we are expected to fit so many unrealistic and cruel expectations portrayed by either media, social platforms or our peers whereby others seek to classify you and rank your femininity and ethnicity according to societies desired template. When women no longer feel the need to have x amount of ‘likes’ and focus on the one like that matters which is self-acceptance and no longer strive for peer validation, will that woman have the confidence to best fulfill her purpose.
Looking at South Africa today, what role should women play?
Women should play the role they best desire to portray and not adopt the patriarchal views of society and accomplish and dominate in spaces, sports, societal roles and job occupations that may be currently considered as a ‘man’s’ job. A role which encourages our fellow females to flourish and defy boundaries set by others for us. Whether this be astronauts, pilots or construction workers in order to rectify the role we as women are perceived to play.
What would you like to say to young South African women?
I would like to tell young South African women to embrace their identity, an identity which doesn’t have to be formulated by society, genetics or appearance but who you as a young women were destined to be. To embrace and push your sisters to be individuals who seek no approval and are not apologetic for being profoundly one of a kind.
What would you like to say to South African men?
Men, teach your sons and brothers to not claim but rather co-exist with women. Allow yourself the privilege of acknowledging a woman’s true potential without needing to feel superior to its existence. Teach your sons and brothers to praise women rather than dictate what woman are expected to be and do.
What is your wildly improbable dream for yourself and for our country?
My dream for myself is to be assured without doubt that I have significantly impacted the life of others positively. My biggest dream is a country were our differences are celebrated and not scrutinized. That our racial and gender expectations can be untaught to one which celebrates and teaches one another of our cultures inclusively as which the knowledge and possibility of this could impact the way in which we have been taught to perceive one another. A healed nation and not a seemingly tolerant one.
How do you think the cultural diversity in South Africa impacts the overall esteem of the average South African woman?
I believe it impacts immensely, the lack of diversity for women especially women of colour in representation, particularly ones in a positive light and out of a stereotypical one, which is what media and most people focus on and this has such a negative impact on the young women and on African Women’s esteems. Yet this is changing, diversity is beginning to become something that is celebrated and cultural appreciation is on the rise. The celebration of our diversity is on a platform internationally, this could be on an equal celebration locally. So that we are all proud of who we are, proud of our representations and our cultures.