Money talks: imagining women on our banknotes this Women’s Month

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Published on Capitec, 27 July 2022

This Women’s Day we asked 3 female artists to reimagine the Rand and design what South Africa’s first banknote portraying remarkable women could look like.

Although women make up around half of the global population, only about 9% of the banknotes in circulation feature women.

In South Africa, our banknotes have only ever featured 2 people – both of whom were men. So, we asked 3 female artists two important questions: if you could imagine a woman on our banknotes, who would it be and why?

Anja “Nanna” Venter: Representation matters

Cape Town-based artist Anja “Nanna” Venter chose an important historical moment as inspiration for her banknote. “I’ve recreated the 4 women – Lilian Ngoyi, Sophia Williams, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa – who led 20 000 women in the Women’s March to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 to protest the pass laws.” She captured them at the moment they walked up the steps of the Union Buildings carrying a petition with 5 000 signatures showing power and solidarity in the face of oppressive and dehumanising legislation.

This image depicts an important milestone for our democracy and women’s rights, says Anja. “It was the first time that the protest song Wathint’ abafazi Wathint’ imbokodo! (You strike a woman, you strike a rock) was sung. The women stood together and showed that speaking truth to power is important and necessary.”

Most of the role models Anja admired as a child and modelled her career after – Jaime Hernandez, Kurt Vonnegut, Andy Warhol, Craig Thompson – were men. “All my female role models were pop stars or rock stars. There just weren’t as many visible role models that were women in creative professions. It’s not that they didn’t exist, it’s just that there wasn’t as much representation,” she says.

“I think that depicting inspiring, strong women on currencies will show young girls, and everyone who doesn’t identify as a cis-heteronormative man, that they can reach those too. That they matter and can make a difference.”

Anja says that art is a tool which can help us draw attention to important issues. “Through visualisation, we can imagine radical futures, new possibilities: we can make intangible matters material. Art is both a mirror and a window to the world.”

Rendani Nemakhavhani: Telling important stories

The idea of featuring women on banknotes is something Rendani Nemakhavhani, who also goes by “PR$DNT HONEY”, had already been thinking about. “I actually started visualising what it could look like back in 2020, which is why I’m really excited to be part of this campaign,” she says. “Partnering with Capitec is giving me an even bigger platform. We can’t keep speaking about women empowerment without seeing it in practice.”

Rendani has chosen to feature Miriam Makeba on her banknote. “I feel as though her story hasn’t been told enough,” says Rendani. “Although she was banned from the country for a very long time, she never spoke badly about South Africa. Wherever she went in the world, she’d speak about what was happening and how important it was to liberate her people. She played a critical role in convincing people outside South Africa to support the struggle.”

All Rendani’s art is inspired by people. “I love people and their stories,” she says. “I always try to tell a positive narrative.” She wears many hats as a creative director, illustrator, art director, graphic designer, photographer and artist living in Joburg. She describes her work as layered, colourful and warm. “I strive to create work that makes me want to look at it. Sometimes I’m surprised by a piece. I don’t always have a plan when I start a new piece, but it makes sense as I work on it.”

Zanele Montle: Finding our voice

Unlike Anja and Rendani, Zanele doesn’t yet know who she will be depicting. She’ll only know once the woman South Africa chooses or nominates through the course of the campaign has been decided.

“While I can’t wait to see who she’ll be, the overall message is especially important to me as a young, black, female artist. I see this as an opportunity to have uncomfortable conversations but also to celebrate us as women. It’s about having a voice and cultivating that voice.”

Zanele believes this campaign has the power to reach even more women. “I look forward to the conversations that will be sparked by it. I’m excited about potentially putting female figures on banknotes. Plus, the campaign is for women, by women. Overall, it’s a beautiful, powerful and empowering campaign.”

She describes her style of art as simple, vibrant and bright. “I paint people in different settings. Sometimes I leave the background empty, other times I include objects or add the title of the piece. I’m inspired by the day-to-day lives of the family and people I grew up with. There’s a lot of storytelling in my work,” says Zanele.

Have your say

Join the conversation on social media about which women you think should be featured on South African currency. Share your suggestions with @CapitecBankSA and use the hashtag #ReimagineTheRandSA.

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