kali van der merwe


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




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  process of subjugation. Then as a self dare, I challenged myself to actually carry out this late night fantasy.


It soon became evident that the typical 'male arsehole' would never have the courage to accept such an intimate, vulnerable making exploration. It takes courage to spread your legs and open yourself up (something usually expected of women).


I was unprepared for the powerful taboo this area of the anatomy still holds. I found the arsehole a no go area socially, visually and conversationally.


The anus has been heavily colonised by religion, society, culture, family and the law. For these reasons it became a wonderfully rich source to investigate for the strong reactions, prejudices, fears and passions it evokes.


Most people have never seen their own arsehole, yet they engage with it daily in dealing with their own 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 threatened when one mentions exploring or exposing the anus. The laws where buggery was punishable with a death sentence  have only been recently been repealed in the past few decades in the so called ‘civilized’ world.


The men in this project, although anonymous, are regarded as collaborators. They landed up being a fairly even mix between straight and gay men. These men were brave enough to expose their posterior for posterity.


The words are straight from the male participants' mouths. They were asked to describe their relationship to their own arseholes and express how it felt to be the subject that was 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 his 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 the filming 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 most profound 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.

download pdf sample of W-hole book

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