Feminist vigilante artist stalks Joburg's streets at night

07 June 2017 - 14:27 By Pearl Boshomane
Her Shadow on the prowl in Braamfontein.
Her Shadow on the prowl in Braamfontein.
Image: Supplied

Wonder Woman may be the feminist superhero the world is obsessing over at the moment, but Johannesburg has its own heroine who wants to defeat one of the most evil forces of all - misogyny.

Her Shadow is a character created by an anonymous artist - and her message is about protecting women from harm, a message that's especially important given the endless wave of real-life horror stories that remind us how unsafe women are in South Africa.

The creator of Her Shadow says: "She's like a vigilante and I embody her, in a way. The reason I want to remain anonymous is because Her Shadow is not just about one woman - it's about every woman."

The artist started working on the project - titled Follow Her Shadow - at the beginning of the year.

So what does the project entail? Calling it a "performance", the artist has filmed women she knows and is inspired by, turning their images into animations which she projects against buildings in the city at night.

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Her initial public performance was last week during First Thursday in Jozi's Braamfontein district.

Because she wants to remain anonymous and it's a guerilla projection (she had no permission from anyone to show her work in the manner she did), she covers her face and travels "very light" in case she needs to get away from the cops or anyone else.

Luckily, despite the police passing by "once or twice" during last week's performance, her one-hour projection went uninterrupted.

"The point of this work is that we can't wait for a hero to save us. Things need to change and women need to have each other's backs," she says. "Feminism should be intersectional. It shouldn't be separated by race, age or gender. We all need to be feminists."

Concern for women's physical safety, she says, is a "worldwide problem" but she is focusing on Johannesburg because that's the city she's in.

"I find it difficult to be out at night by myself and I know it's something a lot of women can relate to," she says. "One of my friends couldn't come to the First Thursday event because she was too afraid to be in Braamfontein at night."

The artist intends the project to continue for about three months.

"The idea is inspired by other women. Part of the work is for women to empower each other so we can change the status quo. I hope it can create dialogue and, hopefully, some change."

• Keep tabs on the project and its future performances via Instagram and Twitter. If you wish to take part in the project, e-mail the artist at followhershadow@gmail.com.

This article was originally published in The Times.

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