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They Need to Know Where They Came From to Appreciate Where They are Going to - Visual Commentary of Informal Settlement Women on Motherhood

Doria Daniels


A central task of a democratic society is to produce responsible citizens and to encourage active citizenship. Sixteen women who live in an informal settlement in Gauteng province, South Africa participated in a two-year study on womens community building and leadership roles. As part of the empirical work, the subjects recorded visual data on their community. Drawing on the womens analysis of the photographs and also on interview and observational data on their roles, this article discusses the traditional positioning of women as mothers for this South African community. By using photography as a primary research tool access was gained into the world of these community women in a much more personal way, without physically invading the womens private spaces. They photographed people, daily events and community occasions. In a consecutive workshop on community building the photos, as well as their own drawings became pedagogical tools that provided deeper insight into the womens ways of dealing with their multiple roles. Though motherhood was not the focus of the study, this theme was interwoven in all aspects of that which the women reported on. This article discusses how the discourses on motherhood come together with the participants political involvement, community building and leadership initiatives.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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