Women are treated like cattle. That is the implied message behind Maral Bolouri’s award-winning cowbell installation at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg. Mothers and Others is a simple wooden structure from which a group of cowbells are suspended. Tied to each is a popular proverb, affirming women’s inferiority. "I was looking for ideas that reinforce oppression of women. I did a study of proverbs relating to women in Africa and … 90% are negative. The only positive ones are to do with women being mothers," says Bolouri, winner of the 2017 Absa L’Atelier award. Echoing how mother figures are the only women who are revered, her installation includes an altar with candles. "When women are only valued as human when they reproduce, it affirms this idea of them as objects. We need to bring about change and think differently," says the Kenyan. Female artists in Africa are demanding change. This is a recurring theme at the exhibition of the art of the 10 finalists for the Absa L’Atelier aw...

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