Stoning in Syria

PerfectStonefigFive72Possibly lost in the tragic news of the summer was story of two women stoned to death in two days by ISIS in Syria. Working on my series, The Perfect Stone, a few years ago I was struck not only by the horror of the penalty—what does it mean that in the 21st century there are still women being stoned to death—but by the question of what would be necessary to cary out the sentence: a pit would need to be dug, many volunteers would be needed to throw stones, and the right size stones would need to be decided on. This last item,  though chilling, made me think—what is the perfect stone for killing a woman?

I hope the video below, and the visual essay, can serve as a proper memorial to women targeted for honor killings in the 21st century.

 

Kindling video

This video, which incorporates first person testimony, interviews, and kindling gathered by local mothers, was inspired by the precarious condition of women in refugee camps who often fall victim to violence as they seek to meet the basic needs of their children. It accompanies my series Kindling. The artist statement for the series is below.

How different are the concerns of mothers the world over? How different are the needs of families—in cities, villages, refugee camps? Children need care. They must be tended to—fed, clothed, sheltered. These essential truths do not change no matter where you live, or what condition you find yourself in. These are the thoughts which occupied my mind as I took a group of local mothers to collect firewood in the town in which I live, and interviewed them to find out what the essential needs of their families are, and how these needs are met.

Traditionally home is the center of the family, the hearth is the heart of the home, a place where families come together for comfort and warmth. The kindling in these drawings echo this ancient ideal of comfort and security, just as the fragile and unsteady piles of wood echo the vulnerable position of women struggling to sustain their families in the most severe conditions imaginable. These drawings of kindling gathered by individual local mothers, and accompanied by their own quotes obtained in interviews, reveal how universal are the needs of families, just as it made clear how precarious and out of reach these most basic of needs are for hundreds of thousands of mothers, fathers, and their children, world wide.

For Darfuri women, driven from their homes in the Darfur region of Sudan, into refugee camps in eastern Chad, basic needs are as scarce, as they are plentiful for my own children. Since 2003, persecution has driven over two million people, the majority of them women and children, into crowded camps that are scattered in areas with scarce wood for fire. Venturing outside the camps in search of wood to cook their meals often ends in rape and other forms of violence. The search for firewood takes on new meaning, as essential for survival as the quest for fire, food, and shelter from the elements since time immemorial.

New Video for the Perfect Stone

Below is revised version of the video of the Perfect Stone series. I’ve reposted the artist statement for the series below:

This visual essay and collection of stones was first inspired by an interview I read regarding the then recent conviction of a young mother who was accused of adultery, and sentenced to death by stoning. The subject of the interview was the public official who was put in charge of carrying out the execution. In reading the interview I was struck not only by the horror of the penalty—what does it mean that in the 21st century there are still women being stoned to death—but by the thoughtful way in which this official ruminated on the correct way to carry out the sentence: a pit would need to be dug, many volunteers would be needed to throw stones, and the right size stones would need to be decided on. This last item,  though chilling, made me think—what is the perfect stone for killing a woman?

There are few outdoor places where stones are not plentiful, even in the town where I live, so I began looking for the perfect stone. What would it look like? What shape would it be? How large? Little things we take for granted take on new meaning when studied up close. Stones are natural and varied, they are often quite beautiful. They have no malice on their own. When drawing them they began to appear as fragile and helpless as the young girl whose recent death by stoning is described from an eye witness account below each image.

In the end of the interview, the public official drew his own conclusion of what the perfect stone would be as he held up his own closed hand  “about the size of a man’s fist”.

Amy Lord and the Question of Women’s Safety

Sweet Sixteen

Sweet Sixteen

The question of women’s safety has reared its head again. How long will it stay in the news? How long will it be a priority? This week in Boston, Amy Lord, a 2011 college graduate who lived in South Boston was kidnapped and forced to travel to five different automated tellers to withdraw money. When the kidnapper was finished with her, she was stabbed to death and left in the Stony Brook Reservation in the Hyde Park section of Boston. The Boston Globe reports, “In South Boston, fear remained pervasive. At gyms, women asked for self-defense classes, and men volunteered to walk them home. Police said they had added extra patrols, planned to hand out whistles to women Friday afternoon, and announced that they would host self-defense classes.” While it is important for us to reflect in the aftermath of such violence, one wonders what would it have taken to prevent such a terrible crime. Yesterday the papers reported on a discarded plan that would have allowed people using ATM’s to type in a special code that would have slowed down the transaction and alerted the police to trouble while still completing the cash withdrawal. Apparently this is not a new idea and the technology has been around for years. Why hasn’t it happened? Banks have resisted because of cost. How do you measure the cost of a woman’s life? One of their customers was dragged to five different ATM’s and stabbed to death.