What an honour exploring body positivity with these unabashed, unapologetic, unafraid women. Here's an intimate look into what the movement means to them...
Oyama Unathi Botha
"Puberty hits, thighs get bigger but the mind is still tiny. You start feeling embarrassed about wearing anything short because fat people don't wear short things. At age 15 you're degraded and your body is constantly sexualised because it’s so far outside the image of skinny, small-breasted girls that everyone accepts as normal.
As a teenager, I remember picking out shorts at Foschini. I ran to the till, excited that I'd found a pair that fitted me perfectly, but was confronted by my father who said, 'No Oyama, you can't be wearing such short things!' So I wore my shorts in private, and took them off when I needed to be somewhere.
I've always had a fighting spirit, and I always rejected the normative yardstick. But still, it was hard growing up being told what I should and shouldn't wear because of people's own judgments and horrible habit of sexualising fat girls.
Now older, I can say with confidence that the shorts I wear are really NOT for your pleasure. Fat girls rising up and embracing bikinis is not us trying to prove a point. We have reached the stage of celebrating ourselves and being comfortable enough to do all the things they said we couldn’t do. We don't need anyone to stuff their own assumptions into our path towards radical self-love. I happen to be a UCT triple major graduate who holds down her own company, Yammie Hearts and Curves. We are all allowed to be smart, read books, hustle, believe in God and twerk like everybody is watching. So stop sexualising my body and focusing on my breast size and let me flourish in my fat girl shorts."
"I spent most of my adolescent years on diets, eating measured portions of protein and snacking on rice cakes, forever waiting to lose my 'puppy fat'. I cried in many a specialised-bra fitting room, devastated by the slim and ugly choices available for my breast size. I was once told by my dance teacher to just “cut them off” after I complained that I couldn’t find bras to support me under my leotard.
It was only as an adult, when I moved to London to do my masters, that I was able to buy bras in my size, unencumbered by limited stock or having to resort to 'sister sizes' to make do. Clothing labels ran bigger and I could finally buy clothes that weren't hideously shapeless (there is a common misconception that women above a size 16 want to dress like drab sacks of porridge!)
This is where my road towards feeling positive about my body began. I started regular yoga practice to manage my mental health and felt pride that this 'big body' could, with enough work, manage the same postures and asanas as the lithe women in my class, bar maybe eagle arms. My new goal, after years of torment, was a body that was 'strong and stretchy', one I could embrace and take comfort in its softness.
Back in SA, I don't have the physical freedom and mobility I did in London and I still can't buy bras in my size. But I'm adapting, continuing my yoga practice, wearing and buying clothes that I feel sexy and confident in, no matter how much cellulite is showing. This photoshoot is a big step in that process - literally putting myself out there and embracing all of me: soft, stretchy and strong.
I am forgiving my body for all the trauma I've put her through and pledging to treat her better and love her more. For I am the one I have been waiting for. I am the only one I have."
Abulele Athi-makaziwe Motile
"Growing up, I was never fully cognisant of my size nor did I think of it as a 'bad' thing. I appreciated my body for being just that - my body, the part of me that allowed me to move and play. When the teasing and bullying started, my body suddenly became a thing that was ugly, something others could use to hurt and belittle me.
My journey towards body positivity has been a long, hard process of returning to the belief that my prowess, worth and beauty are determined by me. Its picking up the pieces that outsiders tore apart so that I can reclaim my sense of worth. It’s the hardest thing I will ever do for myself because there is so much unlearning to do. It means shaking the habit of making fat jokes about myself so that it hurts less when others do it. It means looking at other people’s bodies without comparing, without feeling less-than, unattractive or unwanted. It means that I have to actually take care of my body and health because, you know, I am worth it.
For me, body positivity goes beyond feeling sexy or beautiful in an item of clothing. Its understanding that my body is not an empty vessel for me to live in but my means of experiencing life on this earth. It may be fragile, but it is powerful and it deserves all of my respect".
"I’m sure when you think of body positivity you immediately think of curvy, 'oversized' women in bikinis. I don’t see it that way. For me, body positivity includes everyone. It’s being positive about yourself and your body, whether size four or size forty. Its learning to love yourself and encouraging others to do the same. Simple as that."