Nonprofit Photography: MOSAIC

Empowering survivors of domestic violence and abuse

Here at Penda, we provide grass-roots charities with professional photographs that they can use to raise awareness, fundraise and attract new donors through collaborating with photographers. Most recently, we worked with humanitarian photographer Anna Lusty to document the work of MOSAIC. Based in Cape Town, MOSAIC is a non-profit organisation focused on the prevention of abuse and domestic violence in South Africa, with a particular focus on women and youth living in disadvantaged communities. The organisation is providing hugely valuable support for vulnerable people. Our intern Alice Goodridge joined Anna for the day, and shares her account. 

– Text by Alice Goodridge, images by Anna Lusty

A Brief History of MOSAIC

MOSAIC was founded in 1993 by social worker Rolene Miller, in response to the high levels of violence against women in Cape Town – particularly domestic violence. She recognised the fact that many women in abusive relationships suffer in silence as they are unaware of their rights and lack the confidence to reach out and pursue justice for themselves. The resulting trauma that victims endure also affects their children, families and wider communities. With the mindset of tackling these issues, she launched MOSAIC and between 1995 and 1996 trained twenty-seven women to work with victims of violence and abuse. These women were the first of a legacy of incredible workers who would become the very core and heart of MOSAIC’s mission to eradicate domestic abuse and violence in South Africa.

Meeting the MOSAIC team

I was honoured to shadow Anna Lusty as she photographed MOSAIC’s work. At the beginning of the day I spoke with some of the MOSAIC team members that were gathered at the head office in Wynberg for a training day. I was blown away by how passionately they spoke about their work and the dedication each of them had to making a difference in people’s lives. Charlene Alberts, a first responder at Thuthuzela Care Centre, wanted to reach out to people and to encourage them to seek help. She said that ’the longer you keep quiet the bigger the damage at the end of the day – rather, report or tell someone – don’t keep quiet’. Anita Jefthas, a court worker at Paarl Court, had a similar message; she wanted to let people know that ‘if they need any help, we are assisting people and we are helping people put their lives together and they can call on us, any time.’

MOSAIC’s Services

When speaking with the MOSAIC team, I learned that their work centres around 5 main categories:

  • Social Services
  • Court Support Services
  • Social Enterprise and Training
  • Sexual Health Services and
  • Mencare +

These services manifest in a variety of forms such as counselling, practical support with court procedures and educational workshops on themes such as violence, sexual health and abuse. MOSAIC also offer a variety of training courses based on an initiative called ‘Earn to Survive,’ which addresses the importance of economic empowerment in enabling people to leave abusive and violent relationships. The courses on offer include work readiness, basic business skills, catering, arts and crafts and counselling.

One of the organisation’s team members, Anna Williams, told me the story of how she came to start working for MOSAIC, ten years ago:

‘When I came to the organisation I was also going through domestic violence and abuse so I left everything behind. I wasn’t married at that time but I was living with my partner for 8 years – he was very much jealous and he abused me a lot so I left everything. We shared a place but I left everything behind. I picked up myself and started my life again. So I needed to look for a job, I needed to look for a place to stay, I had to pick up myself and be strong. I heard about the training that MOSAIC was giving to people to empower them in counselling. So I came here, and said “This job is for me. I need this job.”’.

Stories from the Sizakuyenza Care Centre in Philippi

In the afternoon we were able to witness the effects of MOSAIC’s social and court services as we travelled to Philippi, one of the largest townships in Cape Town and home to the Sizakuyenza Centre. Here, we met with two incredible women, Nonolo Noothani and Tamara Bomvana, who are beneficiaries of MOSAIC’s support. They were kind enough to share their stories with myself and Anna, describing their journeys from feeling trapped and helpless in abusive relationships, to their lives now – thriving – thanks to their courage and the long-term support they have found in MOSAIC.

It felt disrespectful at the time, but I am slightly disappointed that I didn’t record our conversations as both women communicated their stories so powerfully and I could never hope to retell them with adequate justice. But I can tell you this: these women were in heartbreakingly abusive and violent households before they came to MOSAIC and to see them now, full of life, smiles and passion was incredibly moving.

Nonolo expressed to us the internal pain she was struggling with during the darker times in her life. She felt as though she was ‘nothing’ in her household, with even her children choosing to stand by her aggressive husband as she wasn’t financially providing for the family. She spoke of how her counselling sessions with MOSAIC empowered her to ‘stand up’ and find the confidence take back control of her life.

Tamara’s history with her ex-husband was distressing to listen to and it was shocking to hear that there was a time when this beautiful woman who now exudes such joy, had once almost taken her own life in response to the trauma she endured. It was her child who saw her crushing pills to put in her food and broke down in tears, making her reconsider her choices. Eventually Tamara found the strength to speak out about her situation to MOSAIC who helped her through the court process and provided the counselling sessions which would support her through her healing journey. Years later Tamara is a beacon of positive energy, is in a new happy relationship and is loving her work as an Uber driver.

The Power of Education

It’s clear that Nonolo and Tamara wouldn’t be where they are today without the support of the passionate team at MOSAIC. Later that afternoon we were able to witness Leonora (one of the social workers based at Sizakuyenza who helped these women through their healing journeys) in her element. She was leading a staged workshop so that Anna could document this branch of their work.

MOSAIC’s ultimate vision is one of a world where violence against women, in all its forms and manifestations, is completely eradicated – and so education, awareness and prevention are integral to their mission. They therefore hold various workshops and presentations, both at their own sites, and further afield in isolated communities, to educate people around the subject of abuse and domestic violence as well as sexual health.

Leonora is a skilled presenter; she encouraged discussion within the group and captivated everyone’s attention. If all of MOSAIC’s workshops emulate what we saw that day, I think they could be truly effective in reducing the prevalence of domestic abuse and violence within the communities they target.

An Inspiring Day

Overall the day was deeply moving, and it was heartwarming to witness the power of MOSAIC’s work through the stories of Nonolo and Tamara whose lives have improved so dramatically since their brave decisions to take action and reach out for help. It was just as inspiring, though, to witness the MOSAIC team’s passion and dedication to their work: lifting people up, offering support and ensuring that women, children and men alike have somewhere to turn to, and know that they are not alone.

Find Out More

To learn more about MOSAIC’s work, get involved or make a donation you can visit MOSAIC’s website, follow them on Facebook or email them at admin@mosaic.org.za. You can find Anna Lusty’s photography portfolio at www.madeinmycamera.co.za. To find out more about our nonprofit photography projects, check out our other blog posts