The above statement and the ideas behind it are simple, I thought.
There is the idea, the concept, but how do we conceptualize
this principle? Here we are in the twenty-first century, an
age of technologically advanced men and women who are more
powerful now than we ever before. Here I am, a fairly intelligent
man living in the so-called age of enlightenment, yet like
many of us in this society, I stay within my boundaries/bondage.
Keeping a global perspective without getting too close to our
subjects gives us the illusion of being safe yet informed about
Sana Musasama's impulse told her to explore the world, to go outside of her boundaries/bondage.
For the past twenty-five years in her work and travels, she has exposed the unexposed.
In her work she has spiritually and physically placed a piece of her soul and
the landscape it has covered. I thought I informed globally. Sana Musasama's
work made me understand globally there is one struggle. "We all are in some
form of bondage,"
says Sana, "My work is an reaction to free us from concepts and judgements
within those boundaries." Sana seeks to speak out, artistically, about
the various systems that deny women the right to free expression and to
a full reflection of their lives and bodies.
"Twenty-five years ago, while I was living in Mendeland, Sierra Leone, there
were these young girls, ages ten to fifteen, who would visit my hut everyday.
We began rituals of them combing my hair, trying on my clothing, putting on my
lip-gloss. They taught me the formal greetings (in Mende), how to sit like a
Mende woman, eat with my tongue never allowing the food to touch my lips. They
showed me how to cook on three rocks and wash my clothes in the river, beating
them on washing stones. They taught me the birth chants and I learned, too soon
to recognize the death song. Suddenly, one morning there were no young girls
in the village. They returned thirteen weeks later changed. Our ritual of sisterhood
was no more. They no longer had the sparkle of wonderment in their eyes; they
silly young girls any longer. They didn't
want to have anything to do with me, I could not understand, I didn't
know why. I know now, they were circumcised.
"Female circumcision, known in the Western hemisphere as female genital
mutilation (FGM), has been practiced for several thousand years in almost thirty
African, Middle Eastern nations, and in parts of Asia. There are ancient texts
that indicate that this practice dates back to 2000 BC in the Nile Valley. This
ancient ritual has been performed as a rites of passage, to preserve female chastity,
to entrap what is viewed as an "aggressive
to maintain clean blood lines, to prevent lesbianism, to calm a woman's
spirit, for social acceptability and for economical survival in many cultures.
Although it isn't
mentioned in the Koran or the Bible, Muslims, Jews, and Christians in Africa
perform this act for religious requirements, as an act of purification/power
over a woman's
body, thus her life. This ritualistic surgery is performed on two million girls
each year, 6000 girls per day, and five girls every minute.
Their silence/screams never left Sana and she wanted to explore their feelings
in her work. We always notice the outer beauty of women without acknowledging
the silent suffering that never reaches the surface, because women have become
masters of disguises in their suffering, their inner anguish. It is kept in,
not to disturb others and often to keep the status quo of their community/conscience.
Sana wants to bring attention to that in her work, in her travels silence/suffering
is the same wherever you find it, whether its in Africa, India, Asia, or in your
home/heart where it doesn't
draw attention to itself.
In Outer Beauty/Inner Anguish,
Sana's art is fused with her interest and love of women wherever they are. She
has loved, touched, seen, felt, and lived the lives of these women in her work.
She is reintroducing rituals that enslave us, hinder us, hurt us, damage us,
killing us, yet transforms us. What happened to those young girls in Mende Land
transformed them and Sana seeks to transform the viewer through her art.
Sana is evoking the ritual of "telling of that silence/suffering. She is
creating a dialogue about gender and cultural imperialism, while questioning
the burden of culture and custom linked with gender. How do we eradicate/educate
a 6,000-year-old custom? What repercussions/resurrections are in place for these
women? How do they stitch their souls back together again? Is this a question
of economical survival or patriarchal survival?
Sana Musasama has opened up a dialogue between the art and its viewer, between
continents and its citizens, between these women and their experiences. She has
also opened up a conversation about boundaries/bondage and the safety of women.
She discusses their outer beauty, and their inner anguish; whether it's
FGM, foot binding (Asia), honor killing (Afghanistan), dowry burning (India),
neck and leg rings (Thailand), battered and murdered women (USA) or child prostitution
and rape, which is world wide. Sana's
work has given them a voice. As global citizens we must step outside of our boundaries/bondage.
All we have to do is listen and learn. Simple.
© January 2001