Jessica Foord ? “Don’t let something like this damage you. I haven’t let what happened to me define me. I’ve let it help me in my future. It’s taken me on a different path, but I haven’t let it destroy me. I’ve let it empower me.”
On 13 September 2015 on SABC 3 at 19h27, the acclaimed short-film series 21 ICONS will feature the second icon of its third season: rape survivor and founder of The Jes Foord Foundation (JFF), Jes Foord.
21 ICONS traces South Africa’s history over the course of its three seasons, moving from the fight for freedom to the country’s growth during democracy, and concluding with a vision of the future. 21 ICONS is a celebration of individuals who inspire multitudes through their impact, integrity and influence.
As a world-class communicator of powerful stories, 21 ICONS uses photography, film and narrative to showcase the pivotal moments of South Africa’s nation-building journey.
Gary van Wyk (34) will step up as principal photographer for the third season. In previous seasons, Van Wyk has been a crucial part of 21 ICONS camera work, visually recording the nuances and intimate moments of each shoot in his distinctive reporting style. Adrian Steirn, who conceived the project, continues his involvement capturing the behind-the-scenes images.
This season has been envisaged as a tribute to the country’s future, shedding the spotlight on youth icons all under the age of 35. Their energy and drive has been captured in coloured portraits; a major departure from previous seasons which featured black-and-white fine arts portraits.
Foord has been selected for 21 ICONS South Africa Season III to honour her courage and bravery following her traumatic gang rape by four men in 2008. Her story is both moving and inspirational and demonstrates the strength of purpose in the face of adversity and that human beings can make the best of their situation if they are able to surpass hardship and strive to be the best version of themselves. She’s a testament to the human spirit that we can overcome suffering and achieve greatness.
During a portrait sitting, Foord describes how she resolved to speak out rather than hide away in shame and how she chose to transform her appallingly negative experience into a positive one with the establishment of JFF. She formed the Foundation to help restore lives after rape by way of a number of initiatives and activities designed to change rape victims into rape survivors. She intends to educate the public and help them realise that there is life after rape.
The film gives an insightful and inspiring glimpse into Foord’s life. Her courage and strength of purpose in the face of a horrific crime has resulted, in her case at least, in something truly good coming out of something very bad.
For the portrait ‘Cinderella Story’, which will appear on the same day that her short-film is released, Van Wyk describes the visual elements, “Drawing inspiration from one of the Jes Foord Foundation’s initiatives – The Cinderella Project, which provides underprivileged girls with dresses to wear to their matric dance – Foord is photographed in a striking red ball gown. She stares directly into the camera: dignified, free of shame, and beautiful.”
On the future of South Africa, Foord comments, “Let’s stand up as South Africans, let’s stand together as the rainbow nation and fight for our country. There is so much opportunity! I think individually we can all make a difference but we need to come together to make a change.”
Jes Foord talks about the establishment of the Jes Foord Foundation at Casa Labia in Muizenberg with photographer Gary Van Wyk. They discuss what we can do to begin to dismantle the culture of rape in South Africa, and why her greatest triumph would be if her foundation was no longer needed.
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