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Proud Women of Africa

Julia Gunther | South Africa

Philipa's Story

Proud Women of Africa is a collection of short visual stories that portray the daily lives of remarkable women living or working in Africa.

Proud Women of Africa is my attempt at portraying the lives of various women who live or work in Africa. A collection of short image stories, which each feature a different woman or group of women.

I began this project in Cape Town, 2008, by documenting my friend Philipa's fight against cancer, a proud and difficult fight which she unfortunately lost in early 2012. Watching her struggle and seeing how proud she was throughout this whole time fascinated me, and I decided to begin looking for other women who had a similar outlook. A strong inner pride that ignores their difficult past or present.

In late 2011 I completed the second part of Proud Women in Africa: Ruthy Goes To Church - the portrayal of Ruth Jones, second-in-command of the Manenberg Church Brigade. Ruthy was born and still lives in the infamous township of Manenberg, renowned for its drug and gang related crime. It’s thanks to women like Ruthy that South African townships have not completely imploded and that the people of Manenberg can still be proud of who they are and where they live.

End of 2012 I returned to South Africa to shoot the 3rd part ‘Rainbow Girls’: a photographic documentary about lesbian women living in South African townships. Shot at the 2012 Miss Lesbian beauty competition in Khayelitsha Township, at the IAM Women’s Shelter and in private homes in Gugulethu Township. Undeterred by the daily threats of violence, constant intimidation and at the risk of being cast out by their own families, the lesbian women of Gugulethu and Khayelitsha township continue to be proud of who they are and of the love they represent. 

‘Maternity Ward’ - part 4 of my ‘Proud Women of Africa’ project was shot in january 2013 and is still in post-production. It is the portrayal of Dr. Lisa Ryuijn, a US obstetrician/gynecologist, and her patients at Kanombe Military Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda. The project follows Dr. Ryujin as she attempts to overcome male dominated Rwandan society and navigate the political landscape that is Rwandan healthcare.

My pictures give the Proud Women of Africa a chance to share their experiences and enable them to speak directly to the viewer. There are countless more people like Philipa, Ruthy, Terra or Lisa: proud African women without a voice whose stories deserve to be told. This is why I’d like to keep this project going. To continue giving these messengers of hope a chance to be heard.

At the moment I’m planning the 5th part of my ‘Proud Women of Africa’ project. I have been trying to find an organization or group of people that promotes the coexistence of people and nature in Africa. By harmonizing the protection and use of nature’s resources, and by educating the local population, these organizations try to create a starting point on which to build a future.


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