This 25 November marks the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, an international campaign supported by numerous activists and organisations. The South African artist Carin Bester, however, will already be on day 239 of her 365-day activism project She had a name 365 which not only highlights the need for more than 16 days of activism, but her videos bring to light the on-going and repetitive reality of femicide in South Africa.
She had a name 365 is a durational performance art piece that sees Bester record a live video saying ‘She had a name’ with the next consecutive number every 190 minutes before posting it to social media. Every video statistically coincides with a womxn being murdered in South Africa. A weekly video of the combined individual videos is created and posted with details of organisations, shelters and campaigns fighting against GBV. The performance began on 1 April 2021 at midnight (coinciding with the beginning of the South African Statistical Year) and will run for a year-long performance cycle. Bester worked with the South African crime statistics from April 2015 to March 2020, where an average of almost 8 womxn were murdered every day, for five years.
Bester explains that the sentence ‘She had a name’, carries the weight of acknowledging every murdered womxn as a person, forcing us to look past the numbers we see on the statistical crime sheets and realising that each number was a person, and that they had a name. In total, 2 763 performance videos will be created. The same amount of womxn murdered in South Africa annually, according to statistics from the past five years.
As such, the performance is not just about the mourning of these womxn’s lives, but a call to action, a motivation for more people to get involved and act, supporting existing organisations who work in the field of ending GBV. It’s about standing up for the thousands of womxn who lost their lives at the hands of men, and changing the narrative of our patriarchal society, which fuels a rape culture and the oppression of womxn.
‘Too often I hear people say: “I want to help, but what can I do?” This is my way of giving every person a way in which they can assist. Because there is so much that can be done, and it doesn’t have to take hours of our time or cost thousands of Rands. Small actions of support can go far. The performance is running for a full year, 365 days, because I feel a strong need for action and activism to take place daily. We need to make the fight visible every day. We need the world to know about every womxn murdered, not just the cases which made it to mainstream media. This is my way to pay tribute to the thousands of victims of femicide to acknowledge every number as a person and remind everyone that; SHE HAD A NAME.’Carin Bester
Bester pushes herself physically, emotionally and mentally, testing the limits of her endurance as she takes on a full year of little sleep and the constant reminder of a womxn’s lives lost by recording a video every 190 minutes, day and night.
‘Doing this performance is hard. It’s heart-breaking knowing that every time my alarm sounds for me to do another video, statistically a womxn is murdered. Another life is taken away, due to anger, envy, hate, jealousy, toxic masculinity or who knows why…’Carin Bester