The Vagina Monologues

It is the International Women’s Day and I have just read Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues – I dare you to do the same! Or even better; listen to Eve Ensler’s beautiful audiobook performance of the monologues. Ensler’s women, the tellers of her monologues, are talking about joy and pleasure, but also about pain, abuse & violence – it comes with the territory.

photo-credit: Nidaa Badwan

Working on my essay on Richard Mosse’s The Enclave I’m reading on The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and what my research is telling me about women’s situation in DRC is totally devastating. DRC, and the east of the country in particular, is being described as the “Rape Capitol of the world,” the prevalence and intensity of all forms of sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. War rape makes a particularly effective weapon because it not only destroys its physical victims, but entire communities as well. You can read statistics on it, but if you want to feel something – art is better …

… better because numbers aren’t actually that suitable for conveying the horrific pain of others. In the words of Susan Sontag: “Narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else: they haunt us”

photo-credit: Nidaa Badwan

Sexual violence has no borders, and in zones of conflict women are suffering double. This is how artist Nidaa Badwan in Gaza is describing her situation

I used to knock on many doors in Gaza to enter the world I want to live in, but there is no door … I love cinema; there is no cinema in Gaza. I paint; there are no galleries to show what I paint. A woman and an artist at the same time — this is a catastrophe.

On Nov. 18, 2013, Ms. Badwan said, she was harassed by Hamas officers while helping with a youth arts program. They questioned why she was standing with men. They chastised her for wearing those jean overalls and made her sign a paper promising not to go outside without loosely fitting, traditional Islamic garb.

 I told them I’m an artist; they said, ‘What does this mean?’ I said, ‘I make films and videos.’ They said, ‘We don’t know what you are talking about, and what do you wear? Why do you look so different?’

They hit me.

The next day, Nidaa Badwan retreated to her room. While the first two months were filled with depression & anxiety, she gradually turned to photography for salvation. ”Slowly, slowly, I started to love isolation,”. By shaping her room into a makeshift creative sanctuary, a sort of self-imposed artist residency began to take place. “I was able to convert my room into a studio, a workplace, and an area where I can practice my hobbies. I’m satisfied and I don’t need anything from the outside world.”

 photo-credit: Nidaa Badwan

I do not really see Badwan’s retreat as a good solution to the constant violence against women’s rights, but I do understand & respect her choice. And the way her images convey her story is stunning!

Born in 1987 in the United Arab Emirates to Palestinian parents, Nidaa Badwan began painting at age 6. She moved to the central Gaza Strip in the sixth grade. She studied interior design at Al Aqsa University in Gaza City and spent a year in Amman, Jordan, working with film and video.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh, my. Takes my breath away.
    Eve Ensler’s play runs continuously in many venues in the USA, often on university campuses and often as a fund-raiser or awareness-raiser for women’s rights issues.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Beautiful work, and a very strong story.

      Nidaa Badwan has an important project going on – reporting on the double repression/oppression of women in war zones, not only having to fear the enemy, but also being victims of the men in their own society.

      My niece is spending a year in Guatemala, and reported that it was common for girls to get pregnant at 16, they had access to contraception, but – in the girl’s own words – felt it was a kind of devaluation of men’s capacity to reproduce if they were to use it …

      1. Different cultures. Interesting.

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