Guardians of seed, land and life: The Southern Africa Rural Women’s Assembly Seed Guardians exhibition

Opening photo exhibition
RWA members holding local seeds. Suurbraak, Western Cape, South Africa
Thursday 23 May 2024, 16:00 - 17:00
Spoken Language
Butterfly Bar
International Institute of Social Studies
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Thoko Dlamini and Lonhanhla Mthethwa from RWA. Mbeka, Shiselweni Region, eSwatini.
©Donna Andrews & Daniel Chavez

Join us on 23 May 2024, when the International Institute of Social Studies will host the Guardians of seed, land and life photo exhibition. 

The exhibition is a window to the lives and struggles of the seed guardians of the Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA). 

It documents their invaluable contribution to food and seed sovereignty and struggle to ensure the recognition of women small-scale farmers, peasants and producers in policy frameworks that protect the rights to seed, land and food. 

The team in charge of the co-design and co-production of the exhibition are three activist-researchers: 

  • Dr Donna Andrews, a South African political economist and feminist theorist, currently a Senior Researcher at the University of Cape Town
  • Dr Suzall Timm, a South African criminologist focusing on regulation in the urban and rural informal economy, and a Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg
  • Dr Daniel Chavez, a Uruguayan visual anthropologist and political economist based in the Netherlands, a Senior Researcher at the Transnational Institute 

Dr Andrews and Dr Chavez both are ISS alumni. 

The exhibition gives a concrete face to the seed guardian, where she comes from and how she sustains life, her family, her community and the planet. It seeks to depict not a static context nor a one-dimensional view, challenging the usual portrayal of a rural woman as helpless and poverty-stricken. The pride of the seed guardian is evident when she tells her story of how protecting the local seeds has enabled her to send her children to school, build her home and become economically self-reliant.

The opening of the exhibition will be followed by a reception with drinks and snacks.

Women agriculturalists in Africa

The opening of the exhibition coincides with the publication of ISS journal DevISSues looking at women agriculturalists in Africa. Two of the exhibition's curators, Donna Andrews and Daniel Chavez (both ISS alumni) wrote an article for the journal documenting the Rural Women's Assembly and the identification of over 500 seed guardians who play an important and often unrecognized role in preserving seed.

Benenia Jeche - RWA. Makoni, Zimbabwe

Digital exhibition

Browse through some of the photos and stories in the digital version of the photo exhibition

Guardians of seed, land and life
More information

The photo exhibition opened in Geneva in October 2023 as part of the mobilizations around the UN Binding Treaty. It toured Scandinavian cities and will travel to other locations in Europe, Africa and the Americas. 

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