Walk-in vagina installed in Johannesburg women’s prison
by James Legge
August 30, 2013
Artist says work is a reaction against the former symbol of oppression
A former women’s prison in South Africa which once held Winnie Mandela is now home to a 12m-deep screaming vagina.
Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba, in a reaction against the former symbol of oppression.
As they do, the scarlet walls ring out with screams and laughter. The “yoni” – the Sanskrit word for vulva, or vagina – is skirted by acrylic wool imitation pubic hair over a tongue-like sponge walkway.
Chhiba said: “It’s a screaming vagina within a space that once contained women and stifled women. It’s revolting against this space… mocking this space, by laughing at it.”
The prison, in the central Johannesburg area of Braamfontein, dates back to 1892, and its Womens’ Prison held Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1958, when she was imprisoned for protesting against apartheid segregation, and again in 1976.
The artist said the work also opposes deeply entrenched patriarchal systems, and taboos around the vagina.
“You don’t often hear men talking about their private parts and feeling disgust or shamed,” as women often do, she said. Continue reading “Vagina Exhibition: Welcome to Our World”