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The GendV Project

Urban Transformation and Gendered Violence in India and South Africa
Philiswa Lila, ENKUNDLENI/poured healing, 2023, The Melrose Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

Philiswa Lila: Recent work


ENKUNDLENI/Poured Healing: 2023, live performance stills

The Melrose Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

Philiswa Lila - artist-in-residency at The GendV Project, has collaborated with ivukuvuku (born Chumani Mantanga), creating art installations and performances since 2022. Our work is a creative expression of personal experiences, her-stories, and memories by foregrounding emotional dispositions of real and imagined creative dialogues. We focus on the awareness of a personal story and language biography, and work with themes of gender violence, love, pain, healing and resilience. By combining writing, sound, installation art, beads, performance art and video, our creative work is based on process as a way of thinking, doing and reflecting. 

Previous performances include A Bed Called Home: Shared Pain and Healing, Reflections of Reflected Self, ENKUNDLENI/Pouring Healing and EKHAYA: Kept Silence. The previous mentioned projects were generated through ongoing research and scholarly work with the GendV Project: Urban Transformation and Gendered Violence. We reflect on real stories of violence collected via fieldwork interviews by the GendV Project team, which are linked to our (the artists) own personal stories of physical, sexual and child abuse, and utilise performance and writing as embodied methodologies, sources of creative practice and research. 

We are using art to heal our wounds, while understanding that there are similar wounds in various degrees of critical trauma that exist out there. Our work is to acknowledge all wounds and validate their visibility and invisibility as evidence of a life lived, and continuously being lived.

In E N K U N D L E N I /pouring healing, we use elements of water, fire, sun, meditation, lace, beadwork, painting, and various artistic and organic mediums. All elements form part of a guided cleansing where there is the washing of the hands and feet of the artists during the performance and thereafter the audience members are invited to partake in the cleansing ceremony by having their hands and feet washed by the artists. The act of pouring healing is an openness to receiving healing offered, while the process also implies emptying intense emotions, feelings, and selves. 


Water is a cleansing serum. 

Water captures the blueprints of engraved memory of self.

Water exposes the structure of human evolution.

Water ripples underneath the scabs of our internal and external personal experiences of home, identity, spiritual healing, and humanity.


As a result, in the performances, the audience is invited to release and de-clutter certain parts of self(ves) that no longer serve them. We create emotive experiences laced with an outpouring of mind, body, and spirit escapes from everyday life where the audience can be vulnerable – verbally or nonverbally as the human body communicates in multiple ways, including meditating on tears. At the same time, audiences can celebrate the healed version of self(ves), to consider their own experiences and perceptions of violence, pain, and memories. We want to give voice to the silences and secrets that have been concealed. Silence is a language.

You can learn more about the artist’s projects here:

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Written by Philiswa Lila and ivukuvuku

Images by Johnoseamedia



Willing to Share | Pain is Love by Philiswa Lila



We invite you to explore the online exhibitions by Philiswa Lila: Willing to Share and Pain is Love. These exhibitions are part of the My Life, Our Stories creative platform for story sharing and community engagement in Johannesburg. The exhibition speaks to themes of gender, violence, emotion and story sharing, and we invite you to share with us your thoughts and impressions.

“I already know what I would like to speak to you about. To share with you the honest truth, and with all the details I can remember. I encourage myself with a statement: No more silence and silencing the fact that I can actually share what are the interior truths of me! However, my silence, like darkness, can be kind; it, too, is a language I use. I am either silent or voluble to those who are listening. People have good reasons for not speaking. But are there good reasons for silence, or should accepting silence be reasoning for not speaking or sharing?

I am willing to share. This willing is a wanting to share. Sharing is easy, but the will to share is an obligation that ties me to choosing: how, where, why and to whom I am practising this will. Mine starts with my imagination, which is bound up in memory, personal recollections and mostly a re-collecting from sensory experiences to the artworks, and not from the artworks and the other way around. These are sensual feelings, emotions, traces and residues of everyday life, thus, providing meanings for this body of artworks as embodied interiors first, before being seen as visual expressions. With this embodied body of work, I am learning that my willing to share has also meant thinking and overthinking the will itself that has occupied my mind and soul. Knowing that I can actually share elevates my creative thought processes, and then there is a voice that probes, do you really?" - Philiswa Lila

Willing to Share Exhibition

Pain is Love Exhibition

Visit My Life Our Stories

My Life Our Stories is a creative platform for story sharing and community engagement, based in Johannesburg. We invite you to explore the pages where we hope you will find things that interest you and make you think about the lives of our diverse inhabitants and the city of Joburg itself. 

Find out more here