kali van der merwe
What started out initially as a flippant idea turned into a fascinating exploration of taboo, social constructs around the male body, intimacy, shame, sexuality, consumerism, healing and more.
Late one night while wreaking my mental revenge on the male species, I conceived of photographing the male arsehole. I laughed as I imagined the subjugating process. Then as a self dare, I challenged myself to actually carry out my late night fantasy.
It soon became evident that the 'male arsehole' would never have the courage for such a challenging and intimate exploration. It takes courage to spread your legs and open yourself up (something usually expected of women).
I had been unprepared for the powerful taboo this area of the anatomy still holds, even in this day and age. I found it a no go area socially, publicly, visually and conversationally.
The anus is a space that has been heavily colonised by religion, society, culture, family and the law. For these reasons it became a wonderfully rich source to investigate as it evokes such strong reactions, prejudices, fears and passions.
Most people have never seen their arsehole, yet they engage with it daily in dealing with bodily waste.
The arsehole is the gateway between inner and outer worlds. It is a tender orifice, well protected by two fleshy mounds. The anus is a nerve rich interior space that can be entered. Men can explore being penetrated in this area of their bodies if they so choose. The male g spot is located inside the anus. It is surprising how many men feel their masculinity to be threatened when one mentions exploring or exposing the anus. The laws stating that buggery was a capital offence have only been repealed during the past few decades in the ‘civilized’ world.
The men in this project, although anonymous, are regarded as collaborators. These men were brave enough to expose their posterior for posterity. They landed up being a fairly even mix between straight and gay men.
The words are straight from the male participants mouths. They were asked to describe their relationship to their arseholes and express how it felt to be photographed and filmed. The responses are fascinating, I could never have predicted their nuanced diversity: one man was returned to his early childhood of nappy changing by mother and reflected on our attitudes to our waste and the state of the world; another felt he was returning the gaze of the camera through his own nether aperture and went on to orate about the lack of interior exploration in the construct of male identity; someone else felt analogous to release from his transgressions, like after a confession; another participant had a profound one eighty turnaround in his relationship to himself, his religion, his shame and societies' conventions.
My profoundest respect to the men who participated. Thank you for going there, for opening yourselves up literally and physically
For me the real adventures are the inner journeys.
This is how the project went from hole to whole – it became my own as well as my participants' healing journey.
To the men who took part in this project:
You were brave enough to agree
Gentle enough to submit
Honest enough to reveal
Creative enough to collaborate
Secure enough to be vulnerable
Daring to be so intimate
And you were able to articulate so eloquently afterwards
The project is an ongoing one, I aim to do the world tour of anuses country by country, revealing fascinating cultural anachronisms as I explore with brave men.
Kali van der Merwe in collaboration with Valentina Leo
W-hole is a journey into the hidden, the secret, the unexposed, the taboo. In this project a very vulnerable, hidden and soft spot of the anatomy – the arsehole, is explored. The focus is on the male anus as a way to investigate male constructs around intimacy, shame, identity, sexuality and the ownership society creates around the body.
W-hole screened at:
Out in Africa - The South African Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 2008
Festival de Cinema Douarnenez France 2011
download pdf sample of W-hole book
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