There’s a lot of talk about gender-based violence (GBV) but, unless we are victims ourselves, how much can we really understand?
In all the noise, how often do we hear the full story? And how often do we hear it from the person who should be telling it?
Voices, a play created by a mother and daughter team, does just that. Originally staged in 2017, it consists of monologues by rape survivors, which five of the cast of seven women are. Their stories seek to broaden our understanding and, at the same time, heal the pain of those who have been brutalised.
Its impact has been so powerful that it’s been revived every year since then.
DRUM speaks to the creative talents behind the play, Nomaxabiso Rose Mondi (34) and her daughter Vumisipho Mondi (20), about their very personal story.
Rose was just eight years old when the unimaginable happened – she was repeatedly raped by her grandmother’s friend.
He was a 49-year-old churchgoer who looked after her and her cousins on Saturdays when her grandmother was at work. He silenced his innocent victim with threats.
“From January until September, the man raped me and told my family I was a thief stealing coins and sweets,” Rose says. “He said it was our little secret, and I kept it for years. I was too embarrassed and too ashamed to say because I thought no one would believe me.”
Her grandmother and aunts said they would send her back to her mom in Eastern Cape if she stole again – and so she did exactly that to escape her plight.
Back with her mother, she became friends with a boy who she shared all her secrets with. At the age of 13, she fell pregnant with Vumisipho.
“I was close to the boy who was three years older than me because we played soccer together. I’d told him about my rape, and we became friends. I don’t know how he convinced me to sleep with him, but I did, once, and fell pregnant with my beautiful daughter,” Rose says.
Rose says she grew up with low self-esteem because of the rape.
“I was always trying to please friends. I would buy them clothes and, when my mom was at work, we would finish her groceries. I was always taking in strangers to validate myself,” she says.
“I was also a naughty, rebellious child. I did well at school until the depression kicked in when I was in Grade 12,” she says. “I don’t know what triggered it, but everything came back to me. I became a bully. I had a lot of anger and didn’t want anyone telling me what to do.”
Not surprisingly, she failed matric.
“I never had any counselling or spoke up about it until I discovered an interest in acting.”
Rose took to the stage with ease. “I fell in love with theatre. It helped me to purge and to recover from my pain,” she says.
It also hit a note with her daughter, who now works in film.
Vumisipho lived with family members until the age of 14, when they were reunited.
“This is when I saw my mom at work,” she tells DRUM. “I attended plays with her and I was inspired.”
Voices began in 2017 when Rose found the courage to speak up about her rape experience.
"I needed to heal; I needed closure,” she explains. “And I wanted to help people like me who struggled to heal and those who’d gone through the same experience.”
Now she acts alongside her daughter who, in turn, needed to understand the pain her mother was facing.
“My mom told me about the rape and we started working on the production,” Vumisipho says. “It took time for her to open up, but she sat me down and told me about her experience. It was a stressful time for me because I was still in high school, Grade 11, but I wanted to help my mother and help others.”
Together, they decided to write about Rose’s experience in a play and include other women’s stories of survival.
“The goal is to get the women to overcome their pain, and also heal others,” Rose says. “The process is exceedingly difficult. Some women have been disowned by their families, some have had confrontations with their abusers and some are seeking closure.”
Voices, directed by Dambuza Nqumashe with the assistance of veteran actor Jerry Mofokeng, was scheduled to show at the Bloemfontein Civic Theatre during Women’s Month. Due to lockdown, the show’s been postponed. But it will go on – because it has to.
Voices tells stories that need to be heard. “We have had women write to us and tell us how the play has changed their lives,” Vumisipho says.