Shadows. Arabinda Samanta. 2011.
This painting , entitled Shadows, has been artfully created by freelance artist Arabinda Samanta of India. Samanta created this painting as part of the “It’s My Body/My Body Belongs to Me” campaign, composed of several artists against FGM and other forms of violence against women’s bodies.
Featuring three women, two dark shadows behind a prominent figure, the painting indicates of the cultural tradition of FGM but highlights the injustice of deforming such a beautiful part of the female body. Covering the female’s genitals is a beautiful flower, being sliced away painfully by a knife. The pool of blood at the women’s feet indicates the deformation and pain that accompany the procedure. The beauty of the flower, though, the only item of color in the painting, strongly stands out, personifying the beauty of the female body.
Find other activist art here: http://with-heart-against-fgm.com/our-projects/it-s-my-body-artists-paint-and-design-against-fgm/
This chart, taken from Childinfo, breaks down the percentage of women who have undergone FGM in various practicing countries. Many of the countries which have been featured through out my Tumblr prove to the biggest culprits: for example, Somalia and Sierra Leone. While some countries have limited the practice of FGM (featured on the left side of the graph), the overwhelmingly tall bars on the right show the continuous need for support to continued the End FGM movement.
See this chart and other charts like it here: http://www.childinfo.org/fgmc_progress.html
Collage by West African women who are victims of female genital mutilation. Photo by Elisa Lagos.
An excerpt from the story:
“A woman relived the terror of witnessing her sister being circumcised against her will in their West African home. The experience still haunts her. Her words were a part of a unique, animated art display created by West African victims of female genital mutilation. The mural hung in the gallery of an obscure building in Lower Manhattan in the shadows of Wall Street and the historic Trinity Church.
The painting was actually a collage created by 8 women, who used the vibrant colors and figures to express their violent pasts and promising futures. From a distance, the red, purple and bright-orange work of art looked like a vivid image of life, but within the bright colors were words of pain, remembrance and hope.
In the collage, one woman described a haunting memory of her husband, a man with ‘an angry face with angry eyes. The butterfly with colors next to him is me taking my freedom,’ she wrote.” - Lagos
I found this piece of art incredibly beautiful, perhaps because of the heart and soul that is featured in it. After reading the stories of the women who have contributed to this collage, I am moved by the spirit infused in it. Not many photographs/artwork about FGM have come directly from those who have suffered from the procedure. That is largely why I have found this collage to be so incredible and unique.
Read the story here: http://pavementpieces.com/abused-immigrant-women-use-art-to-help-heal/
I was happy to find a documentary on FGM created by UNICEF, an international organization dedicated to the human rights of children. This film, featuring personal stories from many survivors, portrays the brutality of the procedure - all the while, playing an upbeat tune about ending the tradition. I found this seemingly out-of-place song carries a positive outlook, almost encouraging the women to keep up the fight because they will preserver. Additionally, the video contains many facts about the wide-spread belief in the procedure. For example, over 100 million women and girls are living with the consequences of FGM.
I found it particularly interesting that all clips of Leyla Heussin, a youth worker and victim of FGM, are in black and white, as she explains the need for continued activism in all developed countries as well. The sufferers in the video ask each viewer to support international legislation banning FGM. A motivational and informative documentary, I am very happy to have come across this ray of hope from UNICEF, which proudly supports the end to FGM.
Glenna Gordon. “Ever since she published a front-page story about female genital cutting within a secret society of women, the Liberian journalist Mae Azango has lived in fear, and threats have sent her into hiding—but she says she will continue to speak out” (Shapiro).
In a follow-up article by Danielle Shapiro entitled “Liberian Writer Mae Azango Forced into Hiding for Story of FGC,” a sad result has come from Azango’s March 8th project on FGC. A liberian woman herself, Azango has outraged her own community and is now fearing for her life. Azango has responded though by saying she will not give up this fight.
Mae Azango. 08 March 2012. Growing Pains: Sande Tradition of Female Genital Cutting Threatens Liberian Women’s Health
Liberian photojournalist Mae Azango published a story exposing FGM, which appeared on the front page of FrontPageAfrica on International Women’s Day (March 8th). The piece was incredibly moving, and especially because of its reliance on narratives. Narratives on the subject have been extremely difficult to gather, because many people speaking out against FGM exploits their cultural beliefs. For example, Ma Sabah, an victim explains,“I can’t use my real name because they will throw some kind of sickness on me to kill me when I visit our home because I burst out the secret,” (Azango).
The first photograph, a photo compilation appeared along with the story, using both blatant and implied lines to draw in the eyes. The darkness in the photograph correlates perfectly with Azango’s main expression: FGM cannot remain Africa’s dirty little secret any longer. However, I found the second photograph to be even more interesting - exposing Ma Sabah’s knees, the photographer took the shot which shows her hands and knees protecting her genitals. At first, though, I could not even tell what the photograph was of, because it is taken at such close range. Additionally, her hands overlap and her thumbs form the shape of a distorted heart, which could speak about her experience with FGM and how it has ever-influenced her life.
Through my research, it appears as though FGM appears in partial body shots, such as the one of Ma Sabah’s knees and hands, or several others I have posted throughout this project.
Lynsey Addario. November 2010. “Maternal Morality.” VII Stories.
James Akena. REUTERS. Uganda 2008.
“Prisca Korein, a 62-year-old traditional surgeon, holds razor blades before carrying out female genital mutilation on teenage girls from the Sebei tribe in Bukwa district, about 357 kms (214 miles) northeast of Kampala, December 15, 2008. The ceremony was to initiate the teenagers into womanhood according to Sebei traditional rites” (REUTERS).
This photograph, taken from Reuters 2008 story on FGM in Uganda, captures the hands of a surgeon, along with her razors, about to perform FGM as a passage of rites for many of the tribes teens. The razors, obviously very primitive, truly emphasize how incredibly painful this procedure would be, most often done without any anesthesia. Also, the hands of the old woman, crinkled and dirty, reiterate the rural aspects of the practice. Additionally, after viewing this photograph, I immediately thought of another (quite famous) social issues photograph taken of the hands of ”Mrs. Andrew Ostermever” during the Depression. Russell Lee, an FSA photographer, captured Mrs. Ostermever’s arthritic hands to symbolize the work she has done as a homesteader.
When considering the implications of FGM viewed through social media, particularly news sources, I find it interesting that most photographs and news stories date back to 2005-2009 or 2011 (including this one). Perhaps in most recent years, media interest in FGM has stifled due to homeland concerns regarding the economy.
“The vast photographic catalogue of misery and injustice throughout the world has given everyone a certain familiarity with atrocity, making the horrible seem more ordinary — making it appear familiar, remote (it’s only a photograph’), inevitable” (Sontag 22).
This is an actual photograph of a young girl being circumcised, taken from the New York Times article entitled “The Cutting Tradition.” I think a photograph like this, showing absolute torture and terror, really “raises the ante,” because of the need to continue to invoke feelings in a viewer through photography. This idea links to the two quotes Sontag uses to explain the phenomenon of novelty wearing off, because of familiarity, despite the actual horror in the image. As a result of the difficulty to continue to use photography as a means of social justice in a society where they are so common, photographers need to work harder, to keep up with the ante - most likely the reason this photographer ventured into the classrooms (which is where these procedures are performed) and documented the actual terrifying process of FGM for this young girl.
This photograph, also taken from the New York Times story on the attempts to end FGM in Senegal, was remarkable to me because I immediately saw the image as well as the unspoken meaning the photographer captured. The young girl photographed is in focus and is staring deeply at the livestock fenced in, maybe one day to be slaughtered for food. This draws on the dehumanization of her own slaughtering which is to occur in the Muslim tradition, namely of her genitals.