Violence against women is an international problem. However, women in India are more often victims of dowry killings, honour killings and domestic violence. Covering up these crimes is also a massive problem, as corruption is widespread. In a common practice, many officials are bribed by the defendant’s family and then refuse to pursue the case. The position of women in India is problematic in many ways: ill-treatment, sexual harassment, abortion of female fetuses, abduction and rape are not isolated cases, but a mass phenomenon.
Social Sculpture | Pink Silence
At the Ghandi square at the Pondycherry beach in Tamil Nadu state, 365 free-standing bamboo sticks were publicly displayed at the beginning of the year. The place is a representative meeting place in the middle of the city. The mass of the large and small pink sticks shone brightly on the otherwise pastel-coloured promenade and fascinated many pedestrians*. Some of the sticks carried messages written in Tamil on mirror foil. Due to the performative dimension, many people quickly gathered around the installation, some began to read and discuss the messages written on the mirror strips. In addition, leaflets written by students* of the Auroville Institute of Applied Technology (AIAT) in Tamil were distributed to explain the political and symbolic power of social sculpture. Meanwhile, the civilian police also came to inquire about the lawful location of the installation and not, as first suspected, to evacuate as an unannounced demonstration. Later in the day, the AIAT students* showed their presence on stage at the International Yoga Festival and broke the taboo! They spoke in public about violence against women and children and the potential causes of this experience. Finally, they introduced a minute of silence for the victims.
Pink Silence at Ghandi-Square at the International Yogafestval in Pondicherry
Breaking Taboos and Ways to Self Empowerment
PINK SILENCE, the EachOneTeachOne project in Auroville and Pondicherry, brings together more than 200 participants to create a large social sculpture. The installation passes through several stations, such as the construction in the Auroville Bamboo Center, the design by the AIAT students*, and above all the extension by personal quotations from the women of the Auroville Village Action Group, the association of self-help groups of women who have fled violent households.
One of the project’s particular challenges was the sensitive introduction to the topic itself. The shame of talking about experiences of violence is huge. Mostly those affected do not file a complaint and shy away from the revelation, as it often takes place within the immediate family circle. If a case comes up (the extreme case of murder is not uncommon), the women concerned are often stigmatised and marginalised by the social and/or professional environment. The #metoo debate only arrived in India in October 2018 and opens a plattform in the social media for the well-educated middle and upper classes. The lower classes still have great difficulty in getting support and making their voices heard.
To prepare the topic we watched the film Gulabi Gang by Nishta Jain together with the AIAT lecturers*. The director documents the developments and actions of a feminist movement of the lower castes from Northern India (Uttar Pradesh) over several months. The debate about starting a film documenting Indian everyday life in another state seemed to work well as an impulse. The women and families shown spoke a different language (Hindi instead of Tamil), but only the similarities of depicting a “normal” everyday life motivated the teachers* to deal with the subject and exchange about known cases and systemic problems of society.
Project week with the AIAT, the Bamboo Center Auroville and the women of the Village Action Group
In the following project week, 365 sticks were painted pink by the pupils* on a daily basis – initially without any further indication as to what the installation was all about. At the end of the week, other participants*, such as the women of the Village Action Group, were invited to the theme day and participation. The joint viewing of the film and the removal of taboos from the theme suddenly seem like an “aha moment” in connection with the installation. Many participants* sat down together and discussed the causes of domestic and institutional violence, which they then wrote down as slogans on strips of film. They complained about abuse, access to education, and especially alcoholism. These strips were then glued to the sticks and thus gave each individual stick a personal story – one could observe how a switch was flipped in the participants* and made a “click”. To regard the installation as a mouthpiece in its own right was fully accepted by the community. Volunteers* were quickly found for further follow-up actions.
Gulabi Gang | Pink Sari Revolution
The inspiration for the social sculpture is the feminist movement GULABI GANG from Uttar Pradesh region. The group fights against the daily violence and oppression of women and is formed under the leadership of Sampat Pal Devi. As strong communities that wear pink saris and bamboo sticks in public as a sign of justice and strength, 20,000 women now demonstrate and act loudly against grievances – this is unique in India. It was interesting to note that although so many women followers in the north have now created a media presence around the topic, the GULABI GANG was unknown in the south of the country. All the greater was the impression on the women in the south, who could clearly identify with the everyday life and stories of those in the north.
Pink Silence in Germany
To this day, the action is continued annually at the AIAT in self-organisation in order to break the taboo around the topic. A few sticks (20kg without concrete feet) made their way to Germany and were presented at the following actions and exhibitions:
- Pink Silence | Unity Pavilion, Auroville 2015
Gulab Jamun | Goethe45, Bremerhaven 2015 (solo exhibition)
Human life begins beyond despair | Blond&Blond Contemporary, Berlin 2015
Adabana – Flowers that must not bloom | Rathaus Bochum 2015
Borrari | Prima Center, Berlin 2015
German Scholarship Award | Lichthof der Technischen Universität Berlin, Berlin 2015 (solo exhibition)
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