The Embrace Project spotlights art for women by women

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Artwork showcased by The Embrace Project. (PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/THEEMBRACEPROJECTZA)
Artwork showcased by The Embrace Project. (PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/THEEMBRACEPROJECTZA)

Childhood friends Leanne Berger and Lee-Anne Germanos were desperate to do something, anything, to make a difference in South Africa’s battle against gender-based violence, especially when the lockdown resulted in a spike in cases.

Gender-based violence is potentially as indiscriminate and contagious a virus as Covid-19,” Lee-Anne, a legal researcher, wrote in a brief for the Helen Suzman Foundation. “Like the global effort being made to combat and defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, the same effort and commitment is required to defeat gender-based violence, which is a pandemic that has been around for much longer.

“The fact that people had to stay indoors because of this virus, resulted them being more in danger,” she tells us.

When Leanne, an illustrator and designer now based in the UK, read her friend’s report, she knew she wanted to help combat the “second pandemic,” as President Cyril Ramaphosa termed the scourge.

“It was out of that desperation, of ‘what on earth can we do?’ that we came up with the idea to merge our two fields to make a difference,” Leanne tells YOU from the UK.

Leanne Berger and LeeAnne Germanos
Leanne Berger and Lee-Anne Germanos, the founders of The Embrace Project. (PHOTO: SUPPLIED)

In June the pair founded the Embrace Project, a non-profit organisation that uses art to raise awareness around GBV.

The art is also sold to customers in South Africa and the UK, on the project’s website, to raise funds for three grassroots organisations fighting GBV in South Africa.

The organisations, in Cape Town and Johannesburg, do not receive government funding, Lee-Anne says. So far, they have raised R30 000, which has been split between the beneficiaries.

And 22 artists have contributed to the project, donating their works – original pieces and prints – to be sold.

They collaborate with artists by giving them a platform to show and sell their work, and raise awareness and conversations around GBV, Lee-Anne says.

“Artist and creatives submit their art to us through our website. I curate what artwork we would like to showcase and we sell it,” she adds.

Prints and gift cards are available from R200 on the site.

Images are a powerful tool, Leanne says. “We thought it was such a good vehicle to tackle such a heavy and important topic. It can show the truth without being visually ugly. We needed to portray the problem in a way that people could actually read and digest [it] without it being overwhelming.”

They chose the word “embrace” for the project because they wanted to include everyone in the fight against GBV.

“It is all about embracing your ability to create change and embrace the community around you and those who are possibly more vulnerable,” Lee-Anne says.

“We are trying to combat something that is really ugly, in probably the most beautiful way, all while supporting local artists. It’s all about conscious consumerism.”

“On the creative side, we have had an amazing response. The fact that everyone was so on board from the get-go and willing to support us was amazing for us,” Leanne says.

Take a look at the art on their website theembraceproject.com

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