Edited by: Amie Soudien

Published by: MaThoko's Books

Publication date: May 2022

ISBN (print): 978-0-620-95865-3

ISBN (PDF): 978-0-620-95866-0

Distribution/Availability:  FREE! LESSER VIOLENCE is available for free – although donations are encouraged where possible. 

Contact karin.tan@wits.ac.za for a hardcopy. Couriering/delivery is possible at the cost of the customer.


Press Release

A collection of essays and creative non-fiction exploring responses to gendered and sexualised violence in South Africa, from a variety of artistic and intellectual perspectives.

Johannesburg (14 May 2022) – The GALA Queer Archive (GALA) and MaThoko’s Books present the new publication LESSER VIOLENCE – VOLUME 1, to be launched in Johannesburg in May 2022.

For further queries or interviews about the publication, email karin.tan@wits.ac.za

“We continue to live in a state of crisis; we experience emergency daily.”

– Amie Soudien, “Care amid crisis”

South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, children, and queer individuals and communities. It is also one of the world’s most unequal countries, with a long legacy of violence. The Lesser Violence Reading Group, formed in 2018 by a group of artists, scholars and activists, was created to generate discussion around possible artistic and scholarly approaches to human existence in this context.

This book is the outcome of those conversations. It is a celebration of the work that emerged from The Lesser Violence Reading Group, aiming to share the contributors’ scholarship and artistic practice with a wider audience.

The writing contained in LESSER VIOLENCE demonstrates a powerful commitment to processing the effects of South Africa’s legacy of violence, and to rejecting the norms that enable racialised, gendered and sexualised violence. LESSER VIOLENCE honours those who have not survived.

LESSER VIOLENCE provides a precedent for new ways of performing possibility and imagining the world differently.

Contributors to the publication: B Camminga, Gabrielle Goliath, Keval Harie, Saarah Jappie, M. Neelika Jayawardane, Donna Kukama, James Macdonald, Nondumiso Lwazi Msimanga, Amie Soudien.

The writing

In LESSER VIOLENCE, contributors reflect on the artistic strategies that enable them to work with, through, around and against the enactment and perpetuation of gendered and sexualised violence.

While a number of contributors are academics by profession, they were encouraged to explore the creative possibilities enabled by writing as an artistic practice – an approach that was enthusiastically taken up. The result is an experimental, spirited, affective collection of texts. 

The book as material object

Special consideration, centring a practice of curatorial care, was taken when approaching the design and production of this publication. A note at the very beginning of the book functions as a trigger warning for the content overall, to provide readers a sense of what is to come. Between each text there is a series of blank pages, intentional pauses that offer readers breathing space between the authors’ contributions, owing to their potentially emotionally taxing material.

The designer, printers and binders were deliberately chosen for their individual commitment to their craft, as well as their artistic and critical engagement and sensitivity to the content of the publication.

Although the publication embraces a minimalist design, the process of selecting the materials was intricately thought through, and the book was semi hand bound and printed. What translates is a physical object that elicits the sense that the reader is holding something that should be treated with care – an attempt to physically manifest the emotion and criticality represented in the texts within.

Designed by softwork  (https://softwork.studio / Instagram @softwork.studio)

Printed by Keleketla! Library (Instagram @keleketlalibrary) and INVADE ( Instagram @invade_9x)

Bound by PULP Paperworks (http://pulppaperworks.com / Instagram @paperworks)


Care amid crisis: Lesser Violence – from reading group to publication

Amie Soudien outlines the origins and intentions of the book.

Why “Lesser Violence”? Reflections on organising the Lesser Violence Reading Group

An interview with the primary Lesser Violence Reading Group organisers and co-conveners, Keval Harie, James Macdonald and Amie Soudien.

In Memoriam

An excerpt from trans activist, sex worker and poet Ayanda Denge’s address at the District Six Homecoming Centre on Human Rights Day, 21 March 2019. She was murdered three days after this event.

Sitting as a Lesser Violence

Saarah Jappie considers the physical and metaphorical act of sitting in an essay proceeding from her experience of Gabrielle Goliath’s Elegy, a performance project commemorating women and LGBTQIA+ individuals whose lives were claimed by gendered, racialised or sexualised violence, in this case Lousia van de Caab, an enslaved woman from the 18th century.

This song is for… Inhabiting the scratch, performing the rhapsodic

Gabrielle Goliath reflects and theorises upon her own artistic practice in her nationally and internationally touring exhibition This song is for…, which explores the aftermath and the afterlives of rape through the reimagining of the dedication song, in close collaboration with a group of women and queer-led musical ensembles.

Chapter Y: Is survival not archival?

Donna Kukama’s contribution is an immersive textual translation of her work Chapter Y: Is Survival not Archival?, which recalls the names of erased individuals, such as women artists historically excluded from the archive, and provides commentary on the gallery space, destabilising the presumed cordiality of patronage and institutional participation.

What’s in a name? And other archives of forgetting

B Camminga shares a poetic reflection on trans death and the experiences of trans people in processes of migration across the Mediterranean middle passage, questioning the violent bureaucracies and conventions of the archive that fail trans people, and calling upon the reader to “remember the dead” through the creation of new kinds of archives.


Nondumiso Msimanga spoke to the performers of NO EASTER SUNDAY FOR QUEERS, the landmark and award-winning stage adaptation of a poem by Koleka Putuma, tapping into the actors’ experience of performing in the play and the lingering emotions, ideas and conflicts the production stirred up for them.

Institutional irresponsibility: How coverups at art institutions perpetuate gender-based violence

Neelika Jayawardane discusses individual and systemic accounts of abuse as they occur within the art industry, and how these abuses intersect with global conversations such as #MeToo, making reference to the practice of refusal as theorised by Tina Campt, and the personal and professional costs of holding people and institutions accountable.

Financial support by

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung


About GALA

The GALA Queer Archive (GALA) is a catalyst for the production, preservation and dissemination of information about the history, culture and contemporary experiences of LGBTIQ people in South Africa. As an archive founded on principles of social justice and human rights, GALA works toward a greater awareness about the lives of LGBTIQ people as a means to an inclusive society. GALA’s primary focus is to preserve and nurture LGBTIQ narratives, as well as promote social equality, inclusive education and youth development. GALA published under the imprint of MaThoko’s Books.

About the Lesser Violence Reading Group

The Lesser Violence Reading Group began in 2018, convened in partnership between GALA and VIAD. For its first iteration, the primary focus of the group centred upon working through issues of gendered and sexualised violence within the intersections of raced and classed violences. These discussions were further focused with a commitment to understanding gendered and sexualised violence as it is processed through art performance or “Live Art” within a South African context.

The group is a space of learning, listening and sharing; a space in which participants and presenters are able to hold conversations not easily hosted in academic contexts. Working with artists, writers, academics and activists, the group grapples with the lived experience of a deeply violent reality in which women’s lives and queer lives are rendered vulnerable to sexual assault, rape, fatal domestic violence and the daily manifestations of rape culture. The group is envisioned as an open, interdisciplinary discursive space. Participants are welcome from any field, and from any point in their education. The sessions are intended for all who would like to further their intersectional understanding, and would like to meet with like-minded individuals.

Readings from the first reading group can be accessed here: https://www.viad.co.za/lesser-violence-18