[[[ The Auntie Roach ]]]
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.
Khale Suske was a one year long, collaborative project with over one hundred Iranian women who gathered together and discussed the topic of violence in Iran. The format of these discussions took a cue from second wave western feminisms notion of Consciousness-Raising(CR) sessions, where all women were given equal time to speak, without interruption or deviation. Investigations and conversations about symbols, goals, concepts and socio cultural impacts of folklore stories were central to the project and the story was retold as a way to reflect upon the cultural muteness of violence.
In this project, women were invited to interact with one another to think broadly about domestic violence as socio-political and cultural issue rather than only a personal matter. The original story was also retold but was connected to ideas of herstory, memory and art in order to encourage the participants to express their feelings by painting, writing and collaging on fabric. In the end, the sessions created an archive of over one hundred and fifty fabric pieces that were sewed on a Korsi quilt by Iranian immigrants in the United States.
Dialogue was the central medium of this project. The significance of this methodology was to de-materialize art and reveal it as a social process. The goal was to exchange ideas and to avoid paternalistic notions of improving or healing the participants situations. By treating dialogue as an aesthetic form, we aimed to stretch the boundaries of the traditional aesthetics in the arts. The collective kept the content and structure of the project accessible to a wide range of people. Women had conversations about how to end violence and reflected on how their experiences were part of a larger culture of violence, going beyond the personal and into the political. This socially Engaged practice attempts to shift the traditional object based consumption of art towards a creative experience of collaborative activity and critical education. We believe that social action for womens rights can only be brought forth through dialogue based, critical consciousness and education.