Project Title - In Development
I AM CHUMA extra info...
"My art has helped me deal with a whole lot of issues. It uplifts me and gives me something positive to look at with the hope that I'll soon be able to get a job and study art."
Chuma Somdaka, a lesbian, Xhosa woman with an amputated leg. Her human existence has been challenging to the extreme and her identity woven from negatively perceived labels into a narrative of an unwanted, unseen being. Chuma is fierce and complex and yet unaffected in many ways. Her capacity to forgive is astounding. Today she is open about her experiences and willing to share her journey, but she was not always that way.
We intend to weave the story in a non-linear approach using 2d animated hybrid techniques to create higher audience engagement by raising questions, delaying some information and creating tension. With reference to structural beats, we are working to Murdock’s model, described in The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness.
Chuma leaves her rural homeland and travels to Cape Town for her father’s funeral in Gugulethu. While living in this community, she is attacked by a man because she refuses his advances. He threatens her life and Chuma reports the incident, but the detective denies her having substantial injuries to warrant him opening a case. Chuma boards the last train into the CBD, taking nothing with her. She ends up in the shelter system for two years while studying business management.
But when her mother loses her job, she withdraws support and Chuma is left living “rough” on a bench. After getting caught up in a violent incident, a defiant Chuma leaves her homeless “crew” and seeks a new “room” in the park. But her state begins to spiral as thoughts of vengeance mingle with memories of past traumas endured. In meeting Michelle, a prostitute, she opens up but struggles to communicate. The incident triggers a string of trauma’s and betrayals from a past she can’t escape.
At 18, Chuma is gang raped by 3 boys she had grown up with. It was a “corrective” rape. Chuma is also brutally attacked by her stepfather (who disliked her being a lesbian) with a wooden bedside table as she slept. In a third incident, she loses her leg when her group of childhood “friends” push her in front of a car and leave her for dead. Chuma, overwhelmed by an internal rage, with an urge to express herself, frantically looks for something to write with but finds only some paper in a bin. Michelle’s cigarette burns as she listens, noticing the ash fall, Chuma has the idea to use the ash to draw. A voice from within says “pick up the stick”, she is staring at... She burns the end of the stick creating charcoal and draws Michelle.
Chuma, rooted to the bench, relentlessly sketches anyone who will sit for her. A “garbage miner” delivers a gift of coloured pastels he found in a dumpster. From this moment Chuma draws with pastels and becomes adept in her use of colour. Her life appears to take an up turn. The bin-miners become her greatest patrons. More inhabitants “sit” for her. She pulls their beauty from within, drawing it out onto the page. Chuma describes having an awareness of this as being a transformative release, now in a near constant state of “flow,” she accesses a state of unity and peace.
Chuma’s emotional world is nourished but she is physically starving. Fearing rejection but desperate she sells the portrait of Michelle. Her changed state of mind tangibly begins to reflect in her outer world, particularly when she befriends a regular jogger. Sarah sees her, believes in her and begins to support and encourage her. This, in turn, is enough for Chuma to keep the positive expansion in motion. Sarah opens doors for Chuma, who accepts an art residency and is given a place to live. There is potential for an exhibition at the Iziko Gallery, situated in the very same gardens where she once slept. Her basic needs are met but the newfound attention feels fickle compared to the deep sense of peace and inspired flow she accessed on her bench.
Opportunities come with strings, expectations, projections of people's fears and definitions of how success stories should end. But is any of the “story” she is becoming on the outside, reflective of her desire within? Chuma experiences a variety of challenges and loses her place at art school. She returns almost daily to her bench to draw in peace (in her bubble). She joins a church, believing the path to regain connection, may lie in service to God.
For now, the hustle continues. She needs art materials. She needs food. Money to pay her electricity bills. No news from the galleries. Our heroine is still in search for wholeness…she seeks harmony, but struggles to find a balance. New potential arises but Chuma slips back into depression, her patterns of self-sabotage and self-protection re-emerge. She cannot sleep, being haunted by visuals of her accident, waking up to the discovery of having lost her leg and the unbelievable, sinking reality, that none of this has been a dream, there is no going back. Her mother buys her a piece of land in a rural town. Chuma envisages she could build a basic home and studio there one day, surrounded by nature and continue to create (a new future).
Animated-hybrid experimental documentary
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