/ 11 August 2008

Writing their own stories

Look At Me Compiled by Marlene le RouxPhotographs by Lucie PavlovichGenugtig publishers

By drawing attention to mental and physical disability as part and parcel of many women’s lives, Look At Me proves that beauty and sensuality can come in many guises.

The personal narratives by 23 women, including the book’s compiler Marlene le Roux, are accompanied by Lucie Pavlovich’s professional fashion photographs.

The pictures highlight the individual beauty of each of the women in glamorous portraits, which mostly do not attempt to hide their disfigurement and more often than not include wheelchairs, walkers or braces as important elements in the photographs.

Le Roux allows the women to write their stories in their own voices — some still struggling to come to terms with their unique attractiveness, others completely at ease with themselves, their sexuality and the disability that is part of what makes them whole.

The book helps able-bodied readers to get past stereotypical assumptions about disability, some of which you may not realise you hold until you begin to read the inspiring stories in the book. It is the stories that makes Look at Me a worthwhile buy — they transcend the perceived limitations of disability and tell of hopes, dreams, love and achievements that pertain to all women’s lives.

In her essay Le Roux writes: ”So what does one do when your reality becomes what society defines as ‘not normal’?

”I believe the first step is to face the world through your own eyes and not through the confirmation of others. Affirming yourself is to become a whole person. To be able to love and respect your own reality, calipers, disabilities and all, you have to love and respect yourself first.” — Lisa Johnston

Writer Marlene le Roux and photographer Lucie Pavlovich have collaborated on a Look at Me Disability Exhibition, in partnership with the British Council, showing at Artscape until September 10 as part of the venue’s Women’s Festival. New technologies such as touch screens, embossing, digital photo-frames and other innovative materials are used to tell the stories of the 23 individuals whose lives are explored in the book. For programme details visit www.artscape.co.za. Artscape, DF Malan Street, Foreshore. Cape Town. Tel: 021 410 9800