Artist hopes life-sized portrait of dead sex worker will haunt the police | News24

Artist hopes life-sized portrait of dead sex worker will haunt the police
25 Sep
Ashraf Hendricks



Clinton Osbourn created a life-sized portrait of activist and sex worker Robyn Matsumi, who died in police custody at the Mowbray police station.
PHOTO: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp
A life-sized portrait has been placed near the police station where a sex worker died in custody after she was arrested on a drug charge.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate was investigating an alleged suicide by hanging.
“Somebody is responsible, but nobody is being held responsible,” said artist Clinton Osbourn.
On 9 April, sex worker and activist Robyn Montsumi was arrested on a drug charge and held at the Mowbray police station in Cape Town. A few days later she died in police custody, GroundUp reported.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) was investigating an alleged suicide by hanging. Sex worker advocacy groups have demanded an update on the investigation.

The Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Task force (SWEAT) had also referred the case to the South African Human Rights Commission.

To raise awareness, artist Clinton Osbourn on Tuesday created a life-sized portrait of Montsumi in wax crayon, laminated it and put it up on a pole near the Mowbray police station.

Osbourn said he was haunted by Montsumi’s death.

“I wanted to make some kind of statement,” he said.

He said: 

There have been no consequences… Somebody is responsible, but nobody is being held responsible.
In the portrait, Montsumi points at the police station with a speech bubble that says: “My name is Robyn Montsumi. I died in the Mowbray police station on 12 April. My family, my friends and my partner deserve to know the truth about what happened to me. I deserve justice.”

She was a ‘peacemaker’

Osbourn said: “They (police) need to know that there are people that are watching them.”

Even though Osbourn expected police would take the artwork down, he said he felt a sense of relief once it was put up.

Constance Mathe, co-ordinator at the Asijiki Coalition (a group advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work) and a friend of Montsumi’s, said the portrait was a beautiful likeness.

Montsumi, she said, was a kind and caring person and a “peacemaker”; one of the founders of the LGBTIQ+ sex worker movement at SWEAT.

Like many people in her community, Mathe did not believe it was a suicide.

She said Montsumi was in police cells “many times”.

Since her death, a number of memorials and protests had been held outside the police station. She hoped the picture stayed up “as a memory”.

Osbourn, who works at SWEAT and has a history of art activism, including having worked at Young in Prison, made collaborative comic books and was a member of Kollektivo Illuminoso Fresco, an art collective.

Did you know you can comment on this article? Subscribe to News24 and add your voice to the conversation.

More videos

WATCH | Ekurhuleni cop threatens to shoot man at ‘close range’ after he allegedly evaded arrest
A group of EMPD officers have arrested a man after he allegedly evaded arrest. In a video circulating on social media one officer said he would shoot the man “at close range”.

WATCH: IPID probe case of police brutality after woman’s arrest
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is investigating a case of police brutality after a Pretoria West woman was pulled by her hair and violently shoved into a police van.
1m 6s

WATCH | Barman’s ‘bite on cop’s finger, drawing of knife’ lands him behind bars
Two men were arrested in Brandfort in the Free State on Saturday night after an alleged confrontation with police officers. Video footage shows one of the accused, a barman, biting a police officer’s finger. The officer then slaps him.
1m 1s

WATCH | 11 arrested during protests at Fort Hare campus, students claim police brutality
Eleven students were arrested at University of Fort Hare’s Alice campus on Wednesday following another day of protests over financial exclusions and other issues.
2m 10s

WATCH: Woman arrested while taking selfies in Sea Point to sue the police
A woman who was arrested after taking selfies in Sea Point, Cape Town, has met with lawyers and plans to sue the police for wrongful arrest. Watch.

WATCH: Mitchells Plain residents hurl insults at police as they arrest injured man
The community of Rocklands in Cape Town were up in arms on Monday when a man, visibly injured, was arrested by police for possession of drugs.

PODCAST | …ONE MORE THING: Jessie Duarte on racism, police brutality and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
In this episode of …One More Thing, a weekly podcast hosted by News24 senior political journalist Tshidi Madia, she chats to ANC deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte.

Another family wants answers on alleged police brutality
Yet another Cape Town family has been left shattered after an incident of alleged police brutality. Leeroy Oliphant died last week while in police custody in Elsies River. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is looking into the incident.

Activists demand accountibility for police brutality
Men in blue who abuse their power must go to jail. That is the call from social justice movement, Not in My Name. The organisation highlighted several cases of innocent people, allegedly killed by police.
2m 58s

Advocate for sex assault investigation reform discusses her work ahead of rapist’s prison release
Abby Honold has made it her mission to ensure victims of sexual assault are treated more humanely by police investigators and her efforts aren’t stopping now that the man who raped her, Daniel Drill-Mellum, is scheduled to be released from prison …
2m 18s

Silence on LGBT rights in Singapore election
Among a record eleven parties set to contest Singapore’s election on Friday, there has been virtual silence on one of the conservative city-state’s most controversial issues, gay rights.

Sex workers in Bolivia want restrictions lifted
As the coronavirus continues to spread in Bolivia, a group of sex workers is urging the government to lift restrictions on their industry, saying they are implementing safety protocols to keep themselves and clients safe.
Related Links
slide 2 of 3
Lockdown death: Police watchdog’s handling of Cape Town case…
‘They beat him up until he died’: IPID steps in after Cape Town man…
Emotional memorial held for sex worker who died in police custody…
Lockdown death: Police watchdog’s handling of Cape Town case…
‘They beat him up until he died’: IPID steps in after Cape Town man…

Paid Content

Keto dieting after 40? This Swedish diet app will change…

Pennsylvania: Say Bye To Expensive Solar Panels If You…
Energy Bill Cruncher

[Photos] Remember The Girl From ‘Precious’? Let’s Have A…
Invest Bae

The Actual Cost Of One Day Full Mouth Dental Implants Might…
Dental implants | Sponsored listing

If you have an iPhone, this game is highly addicting
‎Download Star Trek Fleet Command

[Photos] Take A Look Inside The Obamas’ Gorgeous House
More from
A drag queen from Daveyton shares his story – “I’ve been called demonic”

Exodus | ‘They are never going to break me’ – from KSB, to street child, to the small screen

Let’s get the Jerusalema dance right

[Photos] He Was A Legendary Actor – Today He Works 9 To 5

Mortgage Credit News
Yahtzee lovers can’t stop playing this game

‎Yahtzee® with Buddies Dice
More from
WATCH | Prison guard allegedly caught with contraband strapped to his body in Kimberley…

Exodus | ‘I will never go back’ – leaving KwaSizabantu after more than two decades

— Read on