While researching material for my masters thesis, I came across some of the most disturbing images I have ever seen. Oddly enough when I mis-Googled ‘violence against’ instead of VAW, I was connected with images of women across the world who were disfigured in one ghastly way or another. I was particularly struck by women who had their nose and ears cut off by their in-laws of husbands for trying to leave them. While on a particularly hard to digest page of outrageous pain, there was a split second where the look in one of the women’s eyes shook me to the core. I recognized myself in those eyes. The reflection of the brutally raped women that was me in 1996 a few months after I finished a 5-year undergraduate degree in architecture with honors and had one week before received the job of my choice at a large architectural firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I left the page quickly to remove this from my mind. A few days later, I decided that this was, after all, the nature of said thesis and I would get point blank real in an at once luxurious but biting way. Creating work of beauty that I am inclined to do but leaving a hard narrative of truths most people want to ignore became the goal. I used these other women’s incidents because I myself got through a violent attack that almost killed me by putting it on a global scale. When the darkness of pain and isolation directed me toward the bad end of the only two roads possible to take after such a crisis held my head down I was able to lift it back up. By knowing there was larger traumas out in the world that women were surviving so could I.
The exhibition was a success, and in one of the books I made, I left blank pages that unfurled so that viewers could write reactions. it was the most encouraging thing I could have done since I found out first hand that many were moved by the various narratives: my own and that of women in the world. Since I am at a library computer I cannot upload more photos than I have with me and for my next post I want to talk about someone who became a focal point for my exhibition: Aesha Mohammadzai.