Beautiful Display of Grinding Stones from Southern Africa – Strike The Women, Strike The Rock

What stories these stones would tell….

On display at the Circa Gallery in Rosebank is a beautiful display of 100  grinding stones collected from rural Mpumalanga.

CARLO Gamberini, a collector of grinding stones, is showcasing 100 grinding stones from 250 stones he has in his garden. These beautiful stones were all naturally sculpted by women in the process of grinding maize.

Gamberini’s collection, “Between rock: grinding stones from southern Africa,” is on exhibition at the Circa gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa .

The stones have been collected from villages in Mpumalanga, where they are no longer used by the villagers, says Gamberini. He has collected the stones over the past 10 years. “It is not about the stones, it is about meeting people and hearing their stories,” he adds.

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And to others, these grinding stones are much more than just Arty Facts ….

“Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo”

You Strike A Women, You Strike A Rock

Collection of Grinding Stones, Seconds-on-WestThese grinding stones, highly coveted by galleries and museums, represent generations of African women’s toil, joys, struggles, strength and courage.

In South Africa, August 1956, the rock (or possibly grinding stone) came to symbolise female strength, power and courage when over 20,000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings, Pretoria, to hand over a petition against the Pass Laws and Urban Areas Act.

Many of the women sold their personal items, travelling for days with children on their backs, to participate in this march.

The 20,000+ women of all races, led by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu, and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to deliver a petition to the Prime Minister, JG Strijdom, protesting against apartheid pass laws that would not allow black people to live, or move freely, outside of township areas without carrying a pass or booklet.

Over 100 000 signed petitions were delivered to the Prime Minister’s office door, protesting the Pass Laws and the idea that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.

This sent a loud message to the public that the women of South Africa would not be intimidated and silenced by unjust laws, and that their place was everywhere – and wherever they decided it to be.

The women also sang a protest song composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.”

Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.”

Lillian Ngoyi (1911-1980)

Lillian Ngoyi (1911 – 1980)

Since that day, the phrase: “you strike a woman, you strike a rock”  has come to represent the courage and strength of the  women of South Africa.

In 2006, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the 1956 Women’s March, the South African government renamed Strijdom Square, where the Union Buildings in Pretoria were, as Lillian Ngoyi  Square to honor all those who took part in the historic event.

Women, rocks, stones and seeds

In Dr Sibusiso Hyacinth’s, “Is a Woman a Rock or a Female a Grinding Stone?” Some Linguistic Reflections on the Translation of the Motto, we find the alternative and interesting translation –  “You strike the female, you strike the grinding stone.”

Egyptian statue depicting a woman at a grinding stone

For thousands of years the grinding stone, as essential to human progress as the wheel, has been woman’s main tool for converting inedible roots, leaves, barks and seeds into rich, digestible foods for her family and community.

Excerpt from my e-book The 3 Core WWW.COMs of Civilisation, by Gaye Crispin, Copyright 2008: “Mankind’s and womankind’s early entrepreneurial endeavours evolved because women created excess, began bartering, established rules for intra-community trade (co-ops), and ultimately developed commercial market places. Women have always punched well above their weight in the market place and the psychology behind it. Women don’t just drive markets, they are naturally masters of the core 3 WWW.COMs of civilisation and trade: 1) Community 2) Communication 3) Commerce. Is it any surprise the marketplace is ultimately a female domain? ”

The United Nations seems to understand this too, with women’s equality and freedom being key to achieving their highly ambitious goal to end world poverty by 2015.  The UN Millenium Project claims: every single goal is directly related to women’s rights, and societies where women are NOT afforded equal rights as men can NEVER achieve development in a sustainable manner.”

And even though the global community is NOT on track to achieve the “end of world poverty” goal by 2015, with the growing number of men and women united in a wide range of actions committed to ending gender inequality and world poverty, it’s only a  matter of time before we can say of world poverty and gender inequality:

Aboriginal grinding stone, NSW

Australian aboriginal grinding stone. Photographer:Stuart Humphreys Rights:© Australian Museum

wathint’ abafazi, 

wathint’ imbokodo, 

uza kufa!

You struck the women,

you struck a rock, 

and you were crushed!

Join the #WDSAfrica2012 Tweet-up on Thurs, 9th August

August 9th is an annual public holiday in South Africa  commemorating the 1956 march petitioning against legislation requiring African persons to carry the “pass.” As a gesture of solidarity with our African sisters, there’ll be a Women’s Day Tweet-up and Meet-up in Sydney on the day.

If you’re interested in supporting the #WDSAfrica2012 tweet-up online, joining us in Sydney for morning tea, or hosting your own morning teaplease let me know.

Let’s celebrate gender equality together by supporting Women’s Day on Aug 9.

Gaye Crispin

Gaye Crispin #SayNØkay2FGM


Please read: We, The Women Of This Generation, Can End Female Genital Mutilation … Worldwide… #GayeCrispin #SayNØkay2FGM