The Four Roses Project

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The Four Roses Project is an embodied exploration of the untold stories of women who were part of uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) during the anti-apartheid movement, in relation to the lives and experiences of post-apartheid South African women today.It is an intergenerational work inspired by the real and untold stories and contributions of women who were MK veterans of the Four Roses platoon, one of the few all-female platoons in existence during South Africa's liberation struggle in the 1960s. As a young Black South African woman, I am interested in what the seeds of activism sowed by these MK women in the past can reap for post-apartheid South African women in the present and future. Utilizing African philosophies, autoethnographic and arts-based research methodologies to embody and respond to the interview narratives of three female MK veterans of the Four Roses platoon, this creative research sought to explore the following questions with eight participant dancers between the ages of twenty and thirty-seven: 1. How do the struggle narratives of women of uMkhonto we Sizwe find resonance in my present lived experiences as a post-apartheid woman?; 2. What is my modern-day battlefield and what is my chosen weapon of resistance?; and 3. What alternative futures and possibilities may be generated by the post-apartheid South African woman through the excavation and exploration of this previously unrevealed knowledge? Though primarily explored through dance-based methods of movement improvisation, dance making and performance, the research methodology also included participant observation, written reflections and previously recorded interviews with MK women. Thematic analysis of the MK veterans' narratives along with participants' reflections on their own lived experiences as women in postapartheid South Africa and their embodiment of the MK narratives generated these dominant themes: ‘A culture of silence'; ‘Strength, courage and determination to act'; and ‘Gender challenges and adaptations'. These findings will be disseminated aesthetically through a live audio-visual dance performance experience and witnessed by audiences. This research has illuminated that excavating the untold stories of women's participation in resistance movements in South Africa not only breaks the culture of silence and erasure around women's contributions to nationhood but, when embodied, can evoke meaningful, inspiring and transformative work in present and perhaps future generations of women. This research in centering the voices and experiences of women of South Africa may appeal to feminist, decolonial and critical scholars and practitioners.