Friday, 20 October 2017

Bacha Posh: Gender-bending girls in Afghanistan

"They say your life becomes complete only if you have a son."
Azita Rafhat


"Whoever came [to our house] would say: 'Oh, we're sorry for you not having a son.' So we thought it would be a good idea to disguise our daughter, as she wanted this too." Azita Rafhat
For both social and economic reasons, many girls aged between five and twelve are disguised as boys and, for instance, sent to the market to sell water or chewing gum. Having a Bacha Posh is a matter of honour or reputation for some families since families without sons are pitied. It is also a means of economic survival as daughter turned into a son is sent to work and can add to the family income. In some cases, the girls decide to become Bacha Posh because living a boy's life can be an empowering experience in Afghanistan.
These girls are dressed as boys and get a male name they use when they are outside of the home. They are brought up as boys until they are about 17 or 18. At that age they are supposed to switch back to the traditional Afghan female role model. This change is not always an easy one. Disguised daughters can attend better schools and play sports, they have more freedom, freedom they lose the moment they turn into females (via and via).
"People use bad words for girls. They scream at them on the streets. When I see that, I don’t want to be a girl. When I am a boy, they don’t speak to me like that." a 15-year-old girl

"When I was a kid my parents disguised me as a boy because I didn't have a brother. Until very recently, as a boy, I would go out, play with other boys and have more freedom." Elaha
Elaha, for instance, lived as a boy for 20 years and reverted shortly before going to university. She does not "feel fully female" as her habits are not "girlish" - as a boy she used to go out, play with boys and have more freedom. She does not want to get married (via).
"If my parents force me to get married, I will compensate for the sorrows of Afghan women and beat my husband so badly that he will take me to court every day." Elaha


"I experienced both the world of men and of women and it helped me to be more ambitious in my career."
Azita Rafhat

"The tradition has had a damaging effect on some girls who feel they have missed out on essential childhood memories as well as losing their identity.
For others it has been good experiencing freedoms they would never have had if they had lived as girls.
But for many the key question is: will there be a day when Afghan girls get as much freedom and respect as boys?" BBC



::: She is My Son: WATCH



Photographs of Tamana Airways, 11, a Bacha Posh who every day after school dresses as a boy and sells biscuits, candles and drinks in Kabul's streets (via).

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photographs by Casper Hedberg via and via and via and via and via, copyright by owner

Monday, 16 October 2017

Narrative images: Searching for Atlantis and the Aryan Myth in Tibet

In 1938, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler sent an expedition to Tibet to search for the "Ur-Arier", to find evidence for the theory that Tibet was home to the "Aryan race". Himmler was convinced that Aryans - coming from an ancient civilisation in Atlantis - had escaped and survived the past millennia in the Himalayas and was determined to rediscover this lost Aryan race, this "master race" that had lived on the mythical island of Atlantis before the island paradise was engulfed by the sea. The swastika, by the way, was one of the "evidences" to back the theory as it was a symbol of good luck in Tibetan culture and also used in Nazi Germany (via and via).



The photographs depict anthropologist Dr. Bruno Beger taking cranial measurements in Tibet. Beger came to the conclusion that Tibetan people represented "a staging post between the Mongol and European races" and that they could play "an important role in the region, serving as an allied race in a world dominated by Germany and Japan." (Z., 2005).



In 1971, Bruno Beger was convicted as an accessory to 86 murders - Beger measured and selected imprisoned people in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, people who were afterwards gassed - and was sentenced to three years. Not only did he receive the minimum sentence. Beger did not serve any time in prison. He died in 2009 at the age of 98 (via and via).

More:
Bruno Beger and the Skeleton Collection LINK

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- Z., Mickey (2005) Source of the Blood: Nazi Germany's Search for its Aryan Roots. In: Peet, P. (ed.) Disinformation Guide to Ancient Aliens, Lost Civilizations, Astonishing Archeology & Hidden History. disinformation
- photographs taken by Ernst Krause in 1938 via and via

Friday, 13 October 2017

Skunk Anansie & Ageism

Excerpts from an interview (2013) with Skin after releasing the album "Black Traffic". Skin was asked if she was pleased with the response she had received (via).
"Yeah, everyone’s been really lovely, apart from one review in the NME! [Pete Cashmore of NME rated the album 1/10 with the summary “The people who made this album have an average age of 46. They need to retire. NOW.”] (...)"



"The fans love the album they come to see us live and we have rave, rave, rave reviews apart from that NME review! (...)
The point of that review was that we’re too old to be in a rock band!!! You know, they’ve hated Skunk Anansie from like the minute we sold 100,000 records. And because this is a good album, they don’t want to admit it’s a good album so they literally had to scratch around and try to find a way to slag us off instead of being honest and saying, “You know I’ve never liked this band but this is a really good album”. A good journalist would have done that. But they landed on our age as the only thing they could slag off about us.
You know life doesn’t end at 40. If you love to do something, say you want to be a writer for the rest of your life, what’s to stop you doing that as long as you’re good and as long as you put out stuff that people want to read. It should be the same in any profession. You know if you’re a dancer, keep dancing until your body says no. If you’re a good dancer, then dance.
Ultimately it was very ageist. If you were to apply that level of ageism to racism or homophobia everybody would have gone crazy. If you don’t like the band and you don’t like the album and all you can say is that we’re old then just don’t f*** review us. I mean everybody gets old, but this is a f*** good album!"



More Skunk Anansie:

::: You'll Follow Me Down (with Luciano Pavarotti): LISTEN/WATCH
::: Because of You: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Hedonism: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Kill Everything: LISTEN
::: You Saved Me: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Over the Love: LISTEN/WATCH
::: You Do Something to Me: LISTEN/WATCH

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Avoidable Blindness and Gender

"By far most of the people who go avoidably blind are women."
Brian Doolan, The Fred Hollows Foundation

About two-thirds of the world's blind are women ... in industrialised countries because of their higher life expectancy, in non-industrialised countries because women have little access to surgery. Cataract (which can be cured by surgery and is responsible for most avoidable blindness) surgical coverage among women in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, for instance, is consistently lower and sometimes half that in men (via).

"In a rapid assessment of cataract surgical services in Pakistan, cataract surgical coverage was found to be 92% for males and 73% for females." (WHO)


"In a cluster sample survey in the Menoufia governorate in Egypt, in which 2426 individuals aged 50 and over were examined, 12% were blind; of these 38.3% were male and 61.7% were female." (WHO)
Women face barriers ranging from the cost of surgery, the inability to travel, lacking social support to lacking access to information (via). By 2010, the number of people living with blindness could triple worldwide (via), many of the people affected will be women, poor, poor women.
"In many cultures and regions, within families and the context of communities, blind and vision-impaired women are not considered as important as men to get services. It’s a question of financing and cost recovery where investment in families is rather going to men and to the younger generation than to women and the older generation." Johannes Trimmel


"It's obscene to let people go blind when they don't have to."
Fred Hollows

"The bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis is responsible for the infectious eye disease of trachoma and is a leading cause of blindness in developing countries. Trachoma infection rates are higher in girls and women, as are repeat infections that can lead to blindness. As primary caregivers, young girls and mothers are more exposed to the infectious agent present in the eye secretions of infants. Peak rates of infection occur in pre-school children, which at this age leads to higher rates of scarring, trichiasis and blindness. Trachomatous trichiasis is the stage of trachoma characterized by inturned eyelashes which abrade the cornea and leads to blindness.
In a recent Egyptian study, recurrence rates of trichiasis after surgery were 44.4% for women, and 37.7% for men. These gender differences may be the result of women delaying surgery. Studies suggest that infection loads and rates of reinfection are higher among girls than in boys. Trachoma-related blindness has been found to be 2 to 4 times higher in women than in men.
A study in Oman found more blindness in women due to trachoma; out of 85 sampled blind women, 25 had trachomarelated blindness and out of 49 sampled blind men, 8 had trachoma-related blindness."
(WHO)

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photographs by Brent Stirton via and via, copyright by the respective owners

Friday, 6 October 2017

Mississippi Appendectomy: Racism and Forced Sterilisation

"Mississippi appendectomies, they were called because they would tell women that they needed to get their appendix out, but then sterilize them."
Kluchin



Nazi Germany had "the utopian view of a society cleansed of everything sick, alien, and disturbing". Jews, homosexuals, Marxists, and other groups were so-called health hazards that were eliminated in the most atrocious ways, one of them by sterilising them. When medicine was turned into destruction and the Sterilisation Laws were passed, "German physicians used American physicians as their models" (Byrd & Clayton, 2002). At the Nuremberg trials, they cited Virginia's 1924 Eugenical Sterilization Act as part of their defense (via). The first sterilisation law was passed in Indiana, U.S.A. in 1907 to keep disabled people from having children (via).
"Nazi physicians on more than one occasion argued that German racial policies were relatively "liberal" compared with the treatment of blacks in the United States. Evidence of this was usually taken from the fact that, in several southern states, a person with 1/32nd black ancestry was legally black, whereas if someone were 1/8th Jewish in Germany (and, for many purposes, 1/4th Jewish), that person was legally Aryan (a 1/4 Jew for example, could marry a full-blooded German). Nazi physicians spent a great deal of time discussing American miscegenation legislation; German medical journals reproduced charts showing the states in which blacks could or could not marry whites, could or could not vote, and so forth."
In the U.S., black Americans, Latino Americans, and poor Americans became victims of forced sterilisations. At one mental health hospital in South Carolina, for instance, during the ten years between 1949 and 1960, 102 out of 104 surgical sterilisations were carried out on black Americans although the hospital had admitted twice as many Whites as Blacks. According to civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) - who coined the term Mississippi Appendectomy and who herself was a victim of forced sterilisation - 60% of the black women taken to Sunflower Mississippi City Hospital were sterilised without any medical reason. Often, they did not even know about it (Byrd & Clayton, 2002).
"It was a common belief among Blacks in the South that Black women were routinely sterilized without their informed consent and for no valid medical reason. Teaching hospitals performed unnecessary hysterectomies on poor Black women as practice for their medical residents. This sort of abuse was so widespread in the South that these operations came to be known as “Mississippi appendectomies." Dorothy Roberts


"At some point in the century, more than half of the states in the U.S. had similar programs that allowed for the sterilization of those the government deemed unfit to procreate." 

Only seven of the 33 states have publicly acknowledged or publicly apologised to victims. Most of the programmes started in the early 1930s targeting people in "institutions for mental illness or mental retardation". Slowly, they began targeting "the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those with epilepsy, and ultimately the rural poor on welfare would fall unter the umbrella of 'unfit to procreate'", as well as criminals, "promiscuous" women (including victims of rape), and pregnant women out wedlock. 65.000 US-Americans were sterilised before the last programme was shut down in the 1980s (via).

In North Carolina ("home to the third most prolific and arguably the most racist sterilization program in the nation"), over 7.600 women, men, and children were sterilised during the state's sterilisation programme's 45-year reign, most often without consent. North Carolina was the only state where social workers had the right to suggest who was to be sterilised. Their recommendations were rarely turned down by the eugenics board (95% were accepted). In this climate, doctors felt encouraged and entitled to sterilise people whenever they saw fit.

"I was raped twice, once by the perpetrator and once by the state of North Carolina."
Elaine Riddick



A study of sterilisations carried out in California, "the most aggressive sterilizer in the nation" came to the following conclusions:
"Our dataset reveals that those sterilized in state institutions often were young women pronounced promiscuous; the sons and daughters of Mexican, Italian, and Japanese immigrants, frequently with parents too destitute to care for them; and men and women who transgressed sexual norms. Preliminary statistical analysis demonstrates that during the peak decade of operations from 1935 to 1944 Spanish-surnamed patients were 3.5 times more likely to be sterilized than patients in the general institutional population."
Alexandra Minna Stern
"In his exhaustive survey of state hospitals and homes in the late 1920s, and in a follow-up study about a decade later, Popenoe found that the foreign-born were disproportionately affected, constituting 39% of men and 31% of women sterilized. Of these, immigrants from Scandinavia, Britain, Italy, Russia, Poland, and Germany were most represented. These records also reveal that African Americans and Mexicans were operated on at rates that exceeded their population. Although in the 1920 census they made up about 4% of the state population, Mexican men and Mexican women, respectively, comprised 7% and 8% of those sterilized. Without the forced repatriations of hundreds of Mexicans from state facilities, orchestrated by the Deportation Office of the Department of Institutions, it very likely that this figure would have been higher. More striking, at the Norwalk State Hospital, in southern California, where a total of 380 Mexicans constituted 7.8% of admissions from 1921 to 1930, they were sterilized at rates of 11% for females and 13% for males. In addition, whereas African Americans constituted just over 1% of California’s population, they accounted for 4% of total sterilizations." Minna Stern, 2005


Native Americans were another target group of forced sterilisation - not so long ago. Between 1970 and 1976, about 25 to 50% of Native American women were sterilised in Albuquerque alone. Not a single woman was interviewed, neither was informed consent considered to be necessary.
"What may be the most disturbing aspect of the investigations followed: it was physicians and healthcare professionals in the IHS who coerced these women. It was they who abandoned their professional responsibility to protect the vulnerable through appropriate, non-eugenic indications for surgery and informed consent prior to the procedures. On a Navaho reservation alone, from 1972-1978, there was a 130% increase in abortions (a ratio of abortions per 1000 deliveries increasing from 34 to 77). The same study demonstrated that between 1972 and 1978, sterilization procedures went from 15.1% to 30.7% of total female surgeries on that one reservation. Healthcare professionals’ coercive tactics included the threat of withdrawing future healthcare provisions or custody of Native American children already born—if consent for sterilization was withheld." Rutecki, 2010


Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court:

Part 2. Jurisdiction, Admissibility and Applicable Law

Article 6: Genocide
For the purpose of this Statute, "genocide" means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- Byrd, W. M. & Clayton, L. A. (2002) An American Health Dilemma. Race, Medicine, and Health Care in the United States. 1900 - 2000. New York & London: Routledge
- Minna Stern, A. (2005) Sterilized in the Name of Public Health. Race, Immigration, and Reproductive Control in Modern California. American Journal of Public Health, 95(7), 1128-1138
- Rutecki, G. W. (2010) Forced Sterilization of Native Americans: Late Twentieth Century Physician Cooperation with National Eugenic Policies. CBHD
- photographs of Fannie Lou Hamer via and via and via and via and via

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Tattoos, Beauty and Matriarchal Power

"Tattoos were a symbol of matriarchal power." 
Yumna Al-Arashi

“I remember the moment my Yemeni grandmother scorned my aunts and cousins for making fun of my tattoo. The room fell silent. She said that by insulting me, I was also insulting her mother, and all of the women who came before her. Soon after, she shared faded photographs of my great-grandmother, who was beautifully adorned with lines and geometric patterns all over her face. My grandmother told me, ‘There was a love of individuality that my mother took in pride. I thought it was lost, but now I see her in you.’”
Yumna Al-Arashi



Yumna Al-Arashi was inspired by the story of her late great-grandmother and started searching for and photographing the probably last generation of women with facial tattoos in North Africa. The main reasons why these tattoos are vanishing are the spread of Western ideals of beauty - what was one beautiful is seen as weird and backwards by younger generations - and Islam which prohibits permanent changes to the body (via). In Algeria, there is also the "French Myth" according to which tattoos protected Algerian women from French soldiers by making them unattractive in Western eyes (via).
"The custom, once prevalent throughout the Middle East and North Africa, dates back thousands of years. (...) In large part, the appeal is aesthetic. Young daughters admired their mothers’ tattoos and yearned to one day get their own, just as Western girls count down the days until they can apply lipstick like their mothers. The designs themselves held rich symbolism, communicating connectedness to the earth and the fruits it produced, as well as the cosmos that made it so. Certain images also carried spiritual powers, including the ability to protect oneself and one’s loved ones from evil spirits.(...)Women, for the most part, stopped tattooing their faces and bodies in the 1930s and 1940s. Some elderly women with tattoos have since opted to remove them because of the religious connotations. The ever-shrinking remaining generation of women bearing the traditional ink are now in their 70s and older." Priscilla Frank


“I wanted these tattoos for as long as I could remember I wanted them to show my beauty, to highlight it. Every beautiful woman had tattoos. They symbolize my power, my beauty, and my ability to connect to the Earth. It’s something I’m so proud of.”
A woman



Photograph above:
“I have the stars and the moon on my cheeks. They’re the most beautiful things my eyes have seen. I don’t know how to read or write and I don’t have any devices like you, but I know my land and my Earth, the stars and moon help me navigate it. That’s why I’m here.”
Brika, Tunisia



photographs via

Monday, 2 October 2017

Truth

"The standout is Truth, taking and synthesising these themes into a gloriously cinematic, choir-laden masterpiece, seeking to remind us of the beautiful harmonies that differences bring."
Tara Joshi



"The whole project is the video and then my sister [Amani Washington] did a series of paintings. So the music and the paintings are an abstract metaphor for something that I wanted the video to bring to reality—to show [the beauty you’d experience] if you were able to have a zoom-out view of [Los Angeles, a big city that’s] very representative of the spirit of the United States. If you were to zoom out and be able to see these different people experiencing these different things simultaneously, how would it feel? It felt exactly like the way I thought it would. It feels beautiful. It feels warm. It feels the way it feels to live in the city: Walk past one house, and [take in the] smells and the sounds and the sights, and then you walk past another house and it’s a whole ’nother set. So that whole idea of zooming out and having this view of the people and their different ways."
Kamasi Washington

"The concept for Harmony and the video for “Truth” make clear that Washington is framing his work so that they’re in conversation with the biggest social issues facing the world. His music is both a challenge and a balm, the starting point of a conversation and a place you can go to meditate on what’s been said. Following on its massive and sometimes unwieldy predecessor, Harmony of Difference, a brief and concentrated blast of emotion, is a great place to catch up on what Washington has to say."
Mark Richardson

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Quoting Stevie Wonder

"Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision."
Stevie Wonder

"Sometimes, I feel I am really blessed to be blind because I probably would not last a minute if I were able to see things."
Stevie Wonder



"Clearly, love is love, between a man and a woman, a woman and a man, a woman and a woman and a man and a man. What I'm not confused about is the world needing much more love, no hate, no prejudice, no bigotry and more unity, peace and understanding. Period."
Stevie Wonder

"I am all for anything that is going to better equip a person who is physically challenged in any way, to have an opportunity to be able to do what they are able to do."
Stevie Wonder

"I am not a normal man."
Stevie Wonder

"Do you know, it's funny, but I never thought of being blind as a disadvantage, and I never thought of being black as a disadvantage."
Stevie Wonder

"When I was a child, kids used to make fun of me because I was blind. But I just became more curious, 'How can I climb this tree and get an apple for this girl?' That's what mattered to me."
Stevie Wonder

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Stevie Wonder on YouTube:

::: Superstition: LISTEN/WATCH
::: For Once in My Life: LISTEN/WATCH
::: I'm Gonna Make You Love Me: LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Shadow of Your Smile: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterdy: LISTEN/WATCH

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photograph of Stevie Wonder via

Friday, 29 September 2017

Beauty Warriors

"To be successful, you must be perfect and look perfect—these are our society’s rules, which we all follow without even realizing how ridiculous the standards are. We often forget about the importance of inner beauty."
Evija Laivina




"The series “Beauty Warriors” is (sic) collection of photographs featuring strange and unusual-looking beauty products. All the products were bought on Ebay, and most items were made in China. These products promise instant cures to almost all beauty problems; they fight “problem zones” and promise to cure problems without surgical intervention. Each item visually appeals to me and I tried to show the relationship between beauty product and model."
Evija Laivina




Evija Laivina is an HND Contemporary Art Practice student at Inverness College UHI (via). Her “Beauty Warriors” received the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2017 Student Spotlight Award.




"In today’s world, success is closely tied to perceived perfection. Appropriating the style of traditional portraiture, this series questions the use of products that promise to augment our physical appearance."
Evija Laiviņa




photographs via, copyright by the artist

Friday, 22 September 2017

Time to forget

"It's time to forget
To forget about your age
Forget about your race
Your social standing
Your ideological view...
Forget about everything that keeps us apart"



September is World Alzheimer's Month, November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in the U.S., and June is Alzheimer' & Brain Awareness Month. These initiatives all aim at raising awareness and changing the circumstances of those directly and indirectly affected. According to the World Health Organisation, members of civil society "can play a key role in improving the lives of people with dementia, their carers and families" by enhancing dementia research, by supporting people with dementia, their carers and families, by fostering improvement in health and social care delivery, by raising public awareness, and by influencing government policy-making. More: LINK