Pupils at a Port Elizabeth primary school will have a comforting, visual reminder of the soul they lost when a striking mural of a classmate who was abducted, raped and brutally murdered takes shape.
A conversation about rape culture between two friends resulted in an idea to have a mural designed to commemorate the short life of Sonia Payi at Ebongweni Public Primary School where she attended class.
Seven-year-old Sonia was abducted outside her Kwazakhele home on September 3 after she and a friend sneaked out to buy chips at a nearby spaza shop.
Her body was discovered a few days later in a field in Struanway, New Brighton – about 4km from where she had last been seen.
Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) project leader Oyama Vanto said the mural – a portrait of a smiling Sonia against a sky-blue background surrounded by colourful butterflies – was being designed at the Kwazakhele school.
It is being created as the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign wound up at the weekend.
The idea came about when Vanto and artist Banele Ndajayi, 35, were discussing their concerns about the rape culture in many communities.
Graphite pencils and normal acrylic paint are being used to bring the mural to life.
The project started on Friday last week and is expected to be completed on Saturday.
Four local artists – Bamanye Lethu Ngxale, 19, Siyabonga Ngaki, 27, Lwando Lunika, 31, and Ndajayi – were handpicked for the project.
The message behind the mural was to say “no” to the rape culture against women and children, Vanto said.
“Art can be a powerful tool when it comes to making a statement to address social issues,” he said.
“I saw this as an opportunity to gather the creative artists of Nelson Mandela Bay to say that we should make a statement which says we are against this and all forms of violence.
“The MBDA is mandated to work in certain areas, but I felt we cannot forget where we are from and where these issues reside.
“I feel this behaviour is made to seem normal, and it should not be.
“It should not be OK for a child to go missing and for such horrible things to happen, so we have to make a statement.”
Vanto and Ndajayi both have daughters and this was the catalyst for the project.
Ndajayi is an arts facilitator at Masifunde Learner Development, a non-profit organisation that assists the Walmer Township youth. Sonia’s aunt, Lindani Payi, 40, said the project meant much to the family as it commemorated a life taken too soon.
“It will teach other pupils and community members of the constant abuse and violence affecting our communities,” she said.
Asked how the family had been doing since Sonia’s death, Payi said: “We miss her so, so much – we think about her every day.
“We also worry about the person who did this to Sonia.
“He hasn’t been caught yet and one never knows when he might strike again.”
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said the investigation continued.
A special unveiling ceremony of the mural will be held when the school reopens next month.