A Conversation on Herstory, Memory, and Art
Around the world 1 out of 3 women experiences violence in one way or another through out their lifetime. The most common form of violence experienced by women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner (mostly men), with women beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused. 90% of the abusers are men and 10% women so it's important to refrase the term 'violence against women' and use the term 'men's violence against women' in order to address this issue.
Men's violence against women and girls is not confined to a specific culture, region or country, or to particular groups of women within a society. The roots of violence against women lie in persistent discrimination against women and girls.
Khale Suske (Auntie Roach) is an Iranian folklore story that has become, through its retelling, a defensive method by women to convey their experiences of violence and rigid gender roles in Iranian society. The story is about a female roach that chooses her husband based on the tool that he is going to hit her. Although the story is over two centuries old, there is no material documentation of it due to extreme censorship by the current Iranian regime.
Auntie Roach or Khale Suske was a year long, Socially Engaged Project with over a hundred women (Iranian and non-Iranian) who gathered together and discussed the topic of domestic vioelnce and gender based violence. The format of these discussions took a cue from second wave western feminisms notion of Consciousness-Raising (CR) circles, where all women were given equal time to speak, without interruption or deviation. The project was inspired by Fereshteh Namavar's article titled 'The story of Khale Suske; invisible violence in Iranian Culture' that was originally published in Farhang o Mardom Magazine in 2010 in Iran.
In this project, moridpour invited women to interact with one another and challenged them to think broadly about domestic violence as socio-political and cultural issues rather than only a personal matter. To do this, she retold the story but this time she connected it to ideas of herstory, memory and feminist art. At the conclusion of the CR circles, participants were encouraged to express their feelings by painting, writing and collaging on fabric. In the end, the sessions created an archive of over a hundred and fifty fabric pieces. The project started in Iran and traveled to the US, where the final quilt was created while more women were engaged in conversations about gender based violence.
Susan and Pete Barrett art gallery exhibited this project as part of the Otis Graduate Public Practice Program thesis exhibition in 2012, where more CR circles, conversations and participations happened inside the gallery space.
The Auntie Roach
by Neda Moridpour
I've Had It Up To Here; Shattering Limitations in Public Practice, Susan and Pete Barett Art Gallery, SM, CA.
Roundtables and conversations:
Los Angeles, CA
Auntie Roach, 'I've Had It Up To Here; Shattering Limitations in Public Practice' MFA thesis exhibition, Susan and Pete Barett Gallery, Santa Monica, CA, USA, 2013
Auntie Roach: A conversation on Herstory, Memory, and Art, Los Angeles , CA, USA, 2013
Sample workshops and conversations in MS Society of Tonekabon, Mazandaran, Iran
Photos of participants in Samar Foundation, Tehran, Iran
Below: Published books related to this project.
Detail of an embroidery by a participant in Iran
Detail of a participant in the US attaching the embroidery to the quilt in solidarity