Photography by Andile Mthembu

The Future is Female: battling patriarchy, celebrating womanhood

The birthing process for The Future is Female began when Vuyiswa Sipoko would painfully critique Sphilile Khumalo’s live performances when they were studying at AFDA. It was evident that they shared a passion for performance art but when they realised that they were equally interested in expressing female struggles through their art, the next natural step was to determine how to deliver the mutual vision they were housing within.

“If we create a play then our friends are gonna come. My dance people, my theatre people, our friends and family, they are all going to come and see it. But then we were not creating for everyone, we are just creating for ourselves. The question was ‘how can we expand on this?’ ‘How can we create something bigger and gather different stories from people and then create one big theatre production?’ So that is basically how The Future is Female was born”, said Sphilile.

Sphilile and Vuyiswa define The Future is Female (TFIF) as a movement, maybe even an ideology, that they believe needs to be adopted by all. “The point is to fight against something. If there is nothing to fight against, it means that everything is fixed and we can rest”, Vuyiswa explained. This “something” that the pair are fiercely fighting against is patriarchy.

tfif
Photography by Sabelo Gravity

As young black females, Sphilile and Vuyiswa were naturally exposed to the stark inequalities that a patriarchal society breeds. The pair expressed how they desire for women to be given a chance and even in the unlikeliness that the chance results in failure, they still want women to be given a chance to fail instead of being bound within societal limitations.

TFIF launched their first talk called, The Essence of a Woman, in May 2016. Sexuality, social media, colourism, culture, representation and relationships were discussed in the introductory gathering. Soon after, TFIF produced Define She, a video series which explored mother-daughter and father-daughter relationships. The series scrutinised the incorporation of strength to the narrative of black womanhood and how it stems from the pain and constant need of healing that is experienced while growing up. Following the video series was Flaunt your Flaws, a photo shoot which aimed to capture the diverse form of the female body and the uniqueness of each female body. These photographs were hang on the walls of the J&B Hive while sanitary pads and underwear with red paint acting as menstrual blood dangled from the ceiling at TFIFs second talk about the acceptance and ownership of the female body. Whose Vagina Is It Anyway was a conversation that revolved around the amount of ownership women have to their bodies. TFIF challenged the secrecy that females are forced into when they need to change their sanitary wear or defecate or masturbate. The talk aimed to tackle stigmas around the vagina and accepting the vagina as the complex powerhouse that it is. Lastly, Know Your Worth was a creators night with song, conversation and being taught how to tie a doek.

TFIF’s success throughout 2016 nudged Sphilile and Vuyiswa to do more this year. “I do not know about limitations anymore. I do not like the word ‘limits’…we are limitless”, Vuyiswa exclaimed. TFIF have extended themselves to host their first festival this year. The festival, Because You Can, will be taking place later this month (24-26 February 2017) at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. The themes for the festival revolve around the vagina and the female body, sexuality, mental and physical health, art, healing, financial independence, personal branding and entrepreneurship.

tfif 2
Photography by Sabelo Gravity

“Vuyiswa and I carry the same spirit and we want our kids to carry the same spirit. We need to leave solid footprints that can be followed by the next generation. So we need to direct this spirit into what we are facing right now”, said Sphilile.

In addition to the ceremonies of centred around female empowerment and liberation, TFIF direct their fighting spirit into an outreach campaign called, 12000 Pads. The initiative aims to collect sanitary wear for girls who are unable to afford the highly priced necessity. Instead of tickets, entrance into TFIF events is granted by a contribution to their to their sanitary pad collection. TFIF plans to eventually distribute sanitary wear to public high schools nationwide.

“We are putting out a positive affirmation to women and saying this is what we are doing, this is what we can do together. It is about us saying to women ‘HEY you can…HEY you will…HEY make a change’ and if you repeat that enough to somebody, they will believe it”, said Vuyiswa.

TFIF believe that they are both the revelation and revolution that the nation needs.

Check out The Female is Future Facebook page to keep up with what they have planned for the rest of the year.

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