war of self

Society condemns you depending on your race, your gender, your physical appearance and your personality.

Through her intimate self-portraits, chewela, questions her place in a social order that has predetermined notions of what a woman should be or how a woman should behave.

“I was born in Botswana and spent the first twenty years of my life growing up in what is culturally a very conservative society. Like most conservative societies, being silent about personal issues is the order of the day.

Being a “big boned”, biracial, queer, woman with an awkward personality; I learnt from a young age that often when I expressed my true self, I was met with strange gazes. I was not a “typical” young African girl and had no interest or desire for any form of conformity. My strangeness was often treated as a joke and attributed to my Caucasian heritage.

There were also existing stereotypes for biracialism or being coloured (a racial classification given to people of mixed racial heritage across Southern Africa, inherited from South African Apartheid laws) but I didn’t fit those stereotypes either. As a result I often felt incredibly socially isolated. I learnt to internalise a lot of my feelings and became prone to bouts of depression. My outlets became alcohol, writing or drawing myself.”

Through her portraits chewela explores themes such as mental health, race, body image and sexuality in three parts:

  • Portraits of mental health
  • The erotic as power ( Titled from the essays of Audre Lorde)
  • Depictions of an identity crisis

War of self is a lifelong exploration of self and therefore, the body of work is continuous.

Portraits of mental health

I’m kneeling here with my soul scattered on the ground

There are days it hurts in a place I can’t reach.
Its a place where my soul meets the universe
and together standing hand in hand,
we embrace each others wounds and weep.

These most private and precious parts of me were never really mine.

I’m drowning

I will love the light for it shows me the way,
but I will endure the dark for it shows me the stars
Og Mandino