Breaking the silence: A luta continua documents a process involving over one thousand Khulumani Support Group members in the Western Cape who used scrapbooks, body-maps, photographs, memory cloths, drawings, paintings, art banners and film to tell the stories of their lives under apartheid. The purpose of the process is twofold: to give unacknowledged heroes and survivors of the struggle against apartheid a chance to remember and express their experiences, and to create a record that might honor their sacrifice and educate future generations. The exhibition spans seven years of collaborative work between the Human Rights Media Centre and the Khulumani Support Group, Western Cape. It was initially funded by the Foundation for Human Rights EU. Fundraising for art and memory workshops is ongoing.

Exhibition: Breaking the silence: A luta continua

A luta continua painting (5.5m x 3m) by Dathini Mzayiya and Nkoali Nawa.

An award-winning exhibition has been hosted by:

Interested hosts may contact the HRMC.

Exhibition themes

The United Nations (UN) campaign against torture and rights of survivors
The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984. To date 146 nations including South Africa (1998) have ratified it. The aim of the UN Convention is to stop torture. It holds governments responsible for investigating allegations of torture. The Convention recognizes that victims of torture have the right to reparations. The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is commemorated annually on 26 June. NGO networks working with survivors of torture in South Africa have joined the global campaign to commemorate this day. Support the campaign, show solidarity with those who bear the scars of our apartheid past!

United Nations campaign poster
against torture.

Unfinished business of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)

The exhibition highlights aspects of the unfinished business of the TRC, like, the need for community reparations and rehabilitation, the ongoing investigation of disappearances, and the reintegration of ex-combatants. The South African government, through the Department of Justice, is responsible for implementing the TRC’s recommendations for reparations and for prosecutions emerging from the amnesty process. It has not yet fulfilled this mandate.

Zapiro cartoon commenting on the TRC hearing
and the role of business during apartheid
The International Apartheid Lawsuit

In 2002, the Khulumani Support Group filed a lawsuit against 23 foreign corporations that knowingly provided assistance to the apartheid government in the form of arms and ammunition, military technology, transport, and fuel to the security forces. The assistance enabled the apartheid government to commit violations of International Law such as extra-judicial killings, torture, detention without trial, racial discrimination, forced labour and cruel and inhumane treatment. The Lawsuit was filed in the United States under the Alien Tort Claims Act. This law allows non-US citizens to file a case in the US if their human rights under International Law have been violated. The person or company who violated their rights must be present in the US.

In February 2009, after more than seven years of legal contestation, Judge Scheindlin gave the green light for the case to proceed against the corporations. However, of the original 23 foreign corporations, only six remain liable under the concept of Aiding and Abetting in International Law: Rheinmetall, Ford, General Motors, Daimler Chrysler, Fujitsu and IBM. The Lawsuit has received national and international support. For more information visit:

Hausfeld LLP

Khulumani Support Group

or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Before the Fire and After the Fire

More than 60 000 people lost their homes and possessions in fires set by security force members and other apartheid agents in the winter of 1986. The fires destroyed the squatter settlements of KTC, Crossroads, Nyanga Bush and Nyanga Extension in the Western Cape. Representatives of these communities, assisted by the Legal Resources Centre, took the apartheid government to court. The court action dragged on for nearly two years. In the end, the government agreed to pay money into a trust fund to compensate three thousand victims of the fire – those who had made affidavits for a damages case against the government – and to the communities as a whole.

At first the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was reluctant to accept that arson is a gross human rights violation. It eventually relented and an event hearing was held in KTC in June 1996. Testimony was heard from doctors, police, lawyers, administration officials, priests and only a few victims – once again excluding the majority of victims from receiving reparations. What was a support group to do with a membership unable to access reparations? The deliberate fires of 1986 had been a common theme of the story-telling sessions at Khulumani monthly general meetings since its inception in 1999. Thus began the journey to create memory banners – with a long-term vision of creating a museum or heritage site – and to campaign for TRC recommended community reparations from the South African government. From March to May 2002, the District Six Museum in Cape Town supported Khulumani by facilitating art memory workshops involving 100 members. The workshops were divided into three parts: life before 1986, the fire of 1986, and visions for the future. Members then selected images from this body of work and a small group, with the help of artist Thembeka Qangule, were tasked to copy these onto three banners (3m x 2m each) collectively titled: Before the fire and after the fire.

Before the Fire and After the Fire memory banners painted in 2002
By 2003 the exhibition had grown substantially with the inclusion of an embroidered memory cloth, cartoons about the TRC by Zapiro, 35 memory books and boxes facilitated by Jonathan Morgan and his team from the University of Cape Town's Memory Box Project and body-maps created in one day, facilitated by Jane Solomon. This body of work was hosted at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre over three days, from 24 to 26 June 2003. The first two days consisted of a programme for schools involving about 400 learners from St Cyprians, Modderdam High, Herzlia High, Oscar Mpetha High and Trafalgar High schools with 33 members from Khulumani as the educators. Guest speaker at public launch on 26 June was Christopher Till, director of the Apartheid Museum. He offered the temporary space at the Apartheid Museum as a future host. By June 2004, with financial support from the Foundation for Human Rights (EU), the exhibition had quadrupled in volume and was ready to occupy the 450 square metered temporary space at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. The exhibition additions included:
33 Khulumani members posing with Jonathan Morgan and the Memory Box Project team from UCT at Community House 2003
Khulumani sharing her life story under apartheid, 25 June 2003
  • a second memory cloth;
  • 21 body-maps developed over one week and created by plaintiffs of the Apartheid Lawsuit, members of the Bonteheuwel Military Wing and Khulumani Executive Committee members facilitated by Jane Solomon;
  • 80 cartoons by Zapiro on the TRC;
  • the old Christopher Truter tombstone;
  • 21 life stories written and illustrated by Khulumani members In scrapbooks facilitated by the HRMC;
  • 32 artworks - created by Khulumani members in a three day-long art and memory workshop facilitated by the HRMC with artist Dathini Mzayiya which focused on the use of visual elements like symbols and colour as well as oral interpretation in storytelling. Each participant drew one A2 sized drawing about an incident they will never forget and at the end of the three-day process the stories relating to their drawings were recorded, edited and laminated together with their artworks which are collectively titled "The Washing Line";
  • Numerous photographs;
  • artifacts made of clay;
  • the A luta continua (5.5m x 3m) painting by two artists, Dathini Mzayiya and Nkoali Nawa; and,
  • 11 storyboards explaining the exhibition to audiences.
Guests at the launch of Breaking the silence: A luta continua at the Apartheid Museum - 26 June 2004. Christopher Till, museum director, standing on the left
Cleo Visagie and Maureen Mazibuko, Breaking the silence exhibition guides at the Apartheid Museum
The exhibition was titled Breaking the silence: A luta continua by Khulumani members at a public meeting and was launched at the temporary space at the Apartheid Museum on 26 June 2004. Maureen Mazibuko and Cleo Visagie were the exhibition guides.
In 2006, with a small grant from Hoskin Consolidated Investment (HCI), the project partners, HRMC with Khulumani Western Cape, embarked on the Rural Life Story Project to include rural narratives from Mossel Bay, Beaufort West, Worcester, Robertson and Ashton. The book The eye has never seen enough, the ear has never heard enough , three memory banners and 12 scrapbooks were included in the exhibition when it was launched at the Iziko Museums of Cape Town's Slave Lodge in July 2006. Maureen Mazibuko was the exhibition guide.
St Bernard’s learners visiting the exhibition at Slough Museum
In collaboration with Creative Partnerships, St Bernard’s Girls Highs School, and Slough Museum, the exhibition went to London from March - April 2007 and Maureen Mazibuko was its guide there.

In December 2008, two masters students, Jillian Smith and Celia Hodgson, from the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR), University of York, did their internship at the HRMC. Their project was to fundraise and organise for the exhibition to travel to York. The exhibition was hosted by St Martin-le-Grand for three weeks in May 2009. Parallel activities were organised by CAHR on the International Apartheid Lawsuit. The British Council of South Africa also supported this project.

Breaking the Silence Exhibition at St Matin-le-Grand in York. Seated is Sindiswa Nunu, the exhibition guide.
(Download the brochure)

This eight page foldout brochure about the exhibition provides a text and visual summary of Breaking the silence: A luta continua Exhibition's core themes and contents. Funding for the brochure was received by the National Arts Council of South Africa and printed in time for its launch at St Martin-Le-Grand in May 2009. The exhibition guide in York was Sindiswa Nunu.

Exhibition fold-out brochure
+27 (0)21 762 2092 . admin
+27 (0)21 761 3303 . director
+27 (0)21 761 4437 . projects
+0027 (021) 762 0271