Tattoo artist Manuela Gray was drawn to the body markings of SA’s "numbers" prison gangs. In them she saw marks made less for decorative effect than to communicate power in a secret code, spelt out and spoken across the bodies of inmates.

From this, an entire body of work has emerged — The Number project — which consists of a film documenting the history, personal journeys, codes and body markings of SA’s numbers gangs, as well as prints, a book and a series of hand-stitched photographs.

In the artworks, which go on show at the Southern Guild gallery at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront next month, Gray weaves her own layer of meaning, engaging with the iconography of the numbers through the art of sewing.

The Number will be used to raise awareness and funds for training and rehabilitation initiatives in the troubled ganglands of the Cape Flats.

The exhibition opens on October 13 and runs to the end of the month.

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