emphas.is: Ying Ang/Agnes Dherbeys/Sarah Elliott/Benedicte Kurzen – Besieged

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“Rape is horrifyingly widespread in conflicts all around the world,” writes The Economist, with a focus on Congo. Besieged is a collaborative project by photographers Ying Ang, Agnes Dherbeys, Sarah Elliott, and Benedicte Kurzen, intended to put a spotlight onto this situation. (more)

“This collaborative project is about RAPE being systematically used as a WEAPON OF WARFARE in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the large-scale persecution, damage and sexual violence to people in the DRC as a form of international blackmail and a brutal exercise of power. It is a call to attention and a way of bringing another voice to a wider social consciousness about the absolute and unacceptable violation of the human body, predatory behavior towards the vulnerable and bringing lower the already dispossessed and disenfranchised.

“There were 7,685 cases of sexual violence reported in total for the first 6 months of 2010 alone.

“We aim to add different dimensions to a plea that has been resoundingly heard, but largely unnoticed to an international audience. The idea is to emphasize the scale DESTRUCTION and to bring these violations closer to home. The value of a person’s right to live unmolested is the same, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or age. The fact that women, men and children in the DRC are being continually raped without consequence to the key perpetrators is a sign of total APATHY on the side of the international community. Political pressure must be applied to counter the framework that currently exists where widespread destruction of civilian life can lead to greater political power and legitimacy of rebel forces.

“Photographically, the intention is to create a large-scale PORTRAIT INSTALLATION of as many of the women, men and children raped over a 4-day period in Walikale of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as possible; over 300 people were reported to have been raped within that time frame, in late July, early August, 2010. The portraits will be a representation of the humanity of these people juxtaposed with the unacceptable crime committed against them in an effort to gain political leverage.

“In addition to the portraits, we will also produce a feature story with each of us investigating another aspect of the situation. Agnes Dherbeys will photograph what it means to live in DRC on a daily life basis providing background and contextualization to the war mongering in the DRC. Ying Ang plans to photograph a visual testimony on the physical damage that has been inflicted upon the victims of sexual violence, the scars that have been left behind. Sarah Elliott plans to explore the relationships between mothers and their children, who have been born of rape. Benedicte Kurzen intends to cross over from the rape victim’s testimonies to the perpetrators stories. She hopes to document court cases and Goma’s prison, to underline both the lack of commitment to prosecute rapists.

“All 4 female photographers have a personal vested interest in joining the visual discourse of the violations against women and thus humanity. Rape is a weapon that leaves scars far more complex psychologically and physically than many flesh wounds from firearms, and the legacy that is left behind in the torn fabric of the communities affected are often never repaired or reconciled. These Congolese are BESIEGED on the frontline, for the most part unarmed and unacknowledged. We hope to do something about it.” – Ying Ang/Agnes Dherbeys/Sarah Elliott/Benedicte Kurzen