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Promoting men's care and protection of children

The Fatherhood Exhibition in Cape Town

Press Release

Click on the photo for the enlargement and caption.

Photo by Tracey Derrick

Photo by Gille de Vllieg

Photo by Lee-Anne Fialkov

Photo by Val Adamson

Venue: The Dome Gallery, Guga S'Thebe Cultural Arts Centre
Washington Street
From: 15 to 26 July 2004
Official launch: 19 July at 2pm by the Premier of the Western Cape, Mr Ebrahim Rasool
Alternative venue: Department of African Studies Gallery, University of Cape Town
From: 29 July to 13 August 2004
For further details: Call Mr TC Mama on 021 695 3173

The Fatherhood Project
South Africa has a shockingly high rate of abuse of children, including sexual abuse, perpetuated mainly by men. Many fathers are absent from the lives of their children, providing neither material nor social support for their offspring. This not only leaves men disconnected from the benefits of family life, it also leaves children fatherless and changes their entire understanding and experience of childhood. The AIDS epidemic is having a devastating effect on children's care networks, exposing them to additional trauma, displacement, neglect and abuse. All these factors point to the necessity of work with men, which prompted the Child Youth and Family Development programme at the Human Sciences Research Council to launch the Fatherhood Project, an action research project to increase men's involvement in the care and protection of children.

The exhibition
More than a hundred stunning photographs of men in fatherly roles, selected from a very large number submitted by professional photographers, students and schoolchildren around South Africa, are on display to the public at the venues detailed above in July and August 2004.

The exhibition is part of the first phase of the Fatherhood Project, initiated to stimulate public discourse around men and fathering by presenting an overwhelmingly positive portrait of South African men caring compassionately for children.

The full exhibition (which can be viewed in Langa and at UCT - see above) consists of approximately 120 photographs, featuring the work of a wide range of contributors, including some of South Africa's best-known photographers, as well as students and children using disposable cameras to portray their fathers and the care they provide. Three photographic essays, each an intimate portrayal of the life of an ordinary father, have been provided by celebrated South African photographers Paul Weinberg, Ruth Motau and George Hallett.

Perhaps the most profoundly affecting of the photographs exhibited are those taken by schoolchildren, many of whom come from poor families. These children, none of whom had any previous photographic experience, were given brief orientation and training, provided with disposable cameras, and requested to take pictures of their fathers or father figures at home. The resulting images are a powerful testimony to the enduring presence of committed fathers, even amongst the poorest communities. They also demonstrate the fathering role played by men who are not the biological fathers of the children for whom they provide care.

The Fatherhood Project exhibition has travelled to Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria and Johannesburg in 2004, and will continue to travel around South Africa this year, before going to New York in March 2005. At each of these exhibitions, government and non-government organisations, as well as the private sector, have been invited to participate. Two large banners at the entrance to the exhibition juxtapose the modern-day experience of men. One is a collage of newspaper headlines and shocking photographs that document the abuse that women and children have been subjected to at the hands of men. The other pays homage to the Fathers of our Nation, epitomised by Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The banners denote the crisis in which South African men find themselves today, and the hope for a redemptive future symbolised in the paternal figure of Madiba. The exhibition is annotated by extracts from children's essays on the men, women and other children who fulfil fatherly roles in their lives. Their text demonstrates the importance to children of men's love and care.

Men, fatherhood and children
Despite the fact that many men contribute to, and many make sacrifices for, the well-being of their children both socially and materially, it is estimated that more than half of all South African men do not live with their children for any appreciable length of time. Mamphela Ramphele, in her book Steering by the Stars (2002), writes:

Desertion by fathers is often prompted by their inability to bear the burden of being primary providers. The burden of failure becomes intolerable for those who lack the capacity to generate enough income as uneducated and unskilled labourers.

Desertion is not always physical, it can also be emotional. Many men 'die' as parents and husbands by indulging in alcohol, drugs or becoming unresponsive to their families. Women end up carrying a disproportionate load of responsibility in the nurturing of young people without the necessary authority to do so (p 158).

Men clearly have an important part in creating hardships for children. But they also have the potential, through involved and affectionate care, to alleviate children's problems. Many children speak of the importance of "being with" a father figure, not only of what he can provide materially.

It is also true that children are good for men. Men, especially young fathers, benefit enormously by becoming involved in the care of children. It has been shown that stable and intimate partnerships with children can help men overcome feelings of social alienation and serve to promote pro-social attitudes and behaviour.

It is therefore remarkable that so few programmes aiming to improve children's health and well-being, the functionality of families or community life, target or even include men, let alone fathers. As advocates and activists on behalf of children we're locked into our own stereotypes, seeing men as problematical, irresponsible, neglectful, abusive and irremediable.

Publications and materials
The exhibition is annotated by a brochure on the project, as well as an exhibition catalogue containing a selection of the photographs. A book about men and fatherhood, entitled Baba? Men and fatherhood in South Africa, edited by Linda Richter and Robert Morrell, will appear later in the year.

Partners and stakeholders
The key Fatherhood Project partner is the South African Men's Forum, but a large number of organisations, including the Department of Social Development, ChildrenFirst, the Child Volunteer Network, UNICEF, the Moral Regeneration Movement, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Men as Partners, Soul Buddyz, Osgard Media, and others have joined the Fatherhood Project initiative, and will contribute to the project through the work of their programmes. Key funders for the project are the Human Sciences Research Council, the Ford Foundation Southern Africa Office, UNICEF and VSO RAISA. In the Cape, the Human Sciences Research Council, Ikamva Labantu - Men's Kindness Programme, Kgotla, FAMSA, Men's Trust, The Parent Centre, and RAPCAN will each present events.

Fatherhood Convention
The last event of the Fatherhood Project's 2004 programme will be a Fatherhood Convention, to be held in Durban towards the end of the year. At this event, participating organisations from around the country will have the opportunity to come together to witness one another's activities, share ideas and develop an ongoing advocacy, research and policy agenda to expand men's care and protection of children.

General aims of the Fatherhood Project

  • To influence social expectations and perceptions about men and their care for children
  • To rally peer and professional support to enable men to be more involved in children's lives
  • To create a sense of shared responsibility for children's development among men and women
  • To engender broad-based and long-term commitment to men's involvement with children
  • To identify and address barriers to men's engagement with and protection of young children

All the available information can be downloaded from our website at

Events during the Cape Town exhibition
For information about meetings, workshops, walkabouts with photographers, and other special events during the five weeks of the Cape Town exhibition, please contact Julie Manegold on 031 273 1400 or 083 406 4408 or email

For further information
Professor Linda Richter, Executive Director
Child, Youth and Family Development, Human Sciences Research Council
Tel: 031 273-1418
Fax: 031 273-1416

* * *

Creating a men's group at Guga S'Thebe Arts and Culture Centre

Press release

When: 22 July 6-8pm

What's happening: A forum to discuss the needs of men and youth in the community in promoting men's care and protection of children.

This workshop is about creating a safe space for men to speak on issues that they face regarding fatherhood - a place to examine our lives as men and the challenges that men face, to learn to share our experiences, to support and learn from one another by sharing our life experience and stories.

For more information contact Bryan Hansen on 083 248 2476

Further, the Parent Centre will host two workshops:

  • Monday 2 August: "Dads & Sons" from 18h30 to 20h00
    Department of African Studies Gallery, Upper Campus of the University of Cape Town.
  • Tuesday 3 August: "Dads & Daughters" from 18h30 to 20h00
    Department of African Studies Gallery, Upper Campus of the University of Cape Town.

For more information, contact Celeste van der Merwe at the Parent Centre: 021 762 0116.

LitNet: 16 July 2004

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