Embroidery as narrative: Black South African women's experiences of suffering and healing


Segalo, Puleng. 2014. “Embroidery as Narrative: Black South African Women’s Experiences of Suffering and Healing.” Agenda: Empowering Women
for Gender Equity 28 (1): 44–53. doi:10.1080/10130950.2014.872831.


Author: Puleng Segalo


There are stories that many people who have experienced a traumatic and oppressive past carry with them, stories that continue to remain untold. In a country such as South Africa, where ‘empowerment’ and ‘equality’ are the order of the day, it becomes crucial to acknowledge people's lived experiences and how these relate to the changes taking place. Drawing from an empirical study I conducted in Gauteng, South Africa, this article interrogates how Black women's private memories of the conflict/apartheid period influence how they make sense of their new-found freedom. It explores how these women use artistic forms such as embroideries to re-stitch their lives, create personal life stories, and make connections between the past and the present.I highlight how the women's narratives demonstrate the importance of acknowledging the intersection of gender, history, and politics when talking about people's experiences. I point to the significance of revisiting history in order to make sense of the present, and show how freedom should be understood within its historical context. The interweaving of the women's experiences highlights the collectiveness of suffering, and their narratives may be perceived as echoes of both collective and individual suffering, and healing. The embroideries they produced externalise their embodied experience, and allow for the weaving in of multiple life experiences. I conclude by discussing how through creating personal embroideries the women draw attention to the inequalities they continuously have to contend with in their everyday lives.

Keywords: embroidery, suffering, healing, memory, Narratives

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Discourses, Post-Conflict, Race Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2014

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