The pain of martyrdom: Diane Victor's ghostly victims

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1 Citation (Scopus)


In 2018, for the Aardklop Art Festival, Diane Victor created The Fourteen Stations as a deeply moving commentary on femicide in South Africa. These are ghostly portraits of women who were killed by an intimate partner, projected onto bleak cement walls. This work is a development on an earlier Gothic window styled triptych entitled No Country for Old Women (2014/15), which presents a harrowing account of the scourge of violence towards women and children that abounds in contemporary South Africa. In both these works Victor's female subjects are turned into contemporary martyrs, mementoes of helplessness and wasted potential. The portraits in their pared down simplicity are haunting and evocative whereas the figures in No Country for Old Women display images of beatings, death and evisceration, yet even these are softened by her technique of drawing with candle smoke onto glass, creating a delicate, hazy effect as if these women, set within their coffin like frameworks, are already in the spirit realm. Unlike the brightly coloured stained glass saints shown victorious in Gothic church windows, these victims appear insubstantial and helpless. The ghostly effect memorializes their martyrdom rather than glorifying their lives, yet this technique is able to transform affliction and pain into something that is as beautiful as it is affective. In this text I look at how Victor is able to manipulate the ghastly realities of violence, pain and femicide into an empathetic cry for justice. In a close analysis of her work I consider the way she manages to grapple with the horror of realities that underpin her subject matter. I show how she is able to transcend this earthly pain through the sensitivity of her medium and technique so the viewing experience becomes an emotional connection rather than a horrified withdrawal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-270
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Diane Victor
  • Femicide
  • Martyrdom
  • Pain
  • South African Art
  • Violence against women and children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Religious Studies


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