It is the crack of dawn in downtown Johannesburg, and Patrick Seruwu, a migrant from Uganda, is just starting work in his art studio at August House.
Dressed in an apron, he begins splashing paint on a sketch of a depressed looking woman drawn on canvas.
“My paintings focus on violence against women and the struggles of their daily lives,” he told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
Seruwu says his artwork attempts to inspire people to join campaigns to end violence against women and children.
South Africa has one of the highest incidences of rape and domestic violence against women in the world.
South African NGO Rape Crisis said in a recent report posted on its website that 12 times more women are raped and then murdered in South Africa annually compared to the United States.
According to a police crime statistics report released on March 31, 2018, at least 40,035 rape cases were reported that year nationwide.
Seruwu said his art is inspired by the environment he was raised in as a young boy.
“I was raised up by a single mother and several sisters. I grew up witnessing violence against women in my neighborhood. It was a painful experience,” he said.
When he arrived in Johannesburg a couple of years ago, he first worked at a hair salon, where he used to plait women’s hair.
“Women used to share stories about their personal lives while at the salon, and I could relate to their stories,’’ he said.
Seruwu recalled that some of the women spoke about domestic violence and their daily struggle of single-handily raising children without fathers in a cosmopolitan city like Johannesburg.
He said life in Johannesburg, like many other big cities, is expensive.
“Some people succeed in this city, but many more struggle to make ends meet.
“The tough life conditions in big cities give an opportunity to dubious people to take advantage and abuse many vulnerable women economically, physically, sexually and emotionally,” he said.
“I always wanted to highlight these struggles and the plight of such women, and art has given me a good platform.”
In 2017, Seruwu made the decision to start practicing art as a profession.
He said he was motivated by his late friend, legendary artist Benon Lutaaya, who died Sunday from brain cancer.
“I began using my paintings to expose the silent, painful emotions of women who cannot express themselves,” he said.
Despite being in the art industry for just two years, his artworks have been sold across the world and exhibited at some of South Africa’s top corporate entities, including RMB bank and FirstRand.
He is also currently working with the Lizamore & Associates art gallery in the Rosebank suburb of Johannesburg.
“I’m also starting to use my work to encourage young girls to be strong, independent and know that women are as equal as men in society,” he said.
Seruwu says he will soon start sharing some of his art proceeds with shelters for abused women and organizations helping rape survivors in South Africa.
Many women activists believe various forms of communication aimed at discouraging violence against women including paintings, films, newspaper ads and articles and seminars can help reduce the high statistics of violence.