Women’s laughter, womenslaughter – a powerful new exhibition set to open
A new exhibition is due to open next weekend inspired by a quote by Margaret Atwood who said that what men fear most from women is that they will laugh at them and what women fear most from men, is that they will kill them.
Artist dinavagina has made it part of her work to represent the numbers of women who are victims of femicide (a woman or girl killed by a man on account of her sex) and to find meaningful ways to show the scale of it.
Whether it’s dots or buttons or small pieces of ceramic, tags, flags, maps or photographs, she takes the duty of making a physical mark to represent every woman who has been claimed by femicide very seriously.
Every name – at least three a week – every place and cause and date of death matters and is recorded as far as possible.
For her latest exhibition, called ‘womenslaughter’, she has drawn these marks from the meticulously gathered data that can be found in the Femicide Census, a unique source of information about women who have been killed by men in the UK and the men who have killed them.
That data comes as a result of a small dedicated team sending Freedom of Information requests to every police force in England and Wales, co-ordinated by Karen Ingala Smith – director of Nia, an organisation which aims to end violence against women and children, and founder of Counting Dead Women.
The grim but essential task which has created the first such record, aims to contribute to improving knowledge, strategy, policy and practice, raise awareness of the people and patterns involved, and provide a robust and tangible resource for academics, advocates and the media.
Despite regular promises, governmental commitments, strategies and pledges, these women have to keep counting, keep making their marks, and it remains work that demands and deserves attention.
Individually, concurrently, dinah and Karen keep count, routinely name the women, and have found ways to organise the never-diminishing numbers to make sure that they are not forgotten.
‘womanslaughter’ which opens at Art Central Gallery, Barry on 2 July and then runs until 13 August, is described by the gallery as a comprehensive selection of work, including a large body of new pieces that add to dinah’s vital collection.
Known for her uneasy & controversial subject matter, dinah does not shy away from ethical and moral issues.
Having spent a decade documenting the toll male violence takes on women, where men kill those who love them, dinah faces the violent climate that women live in and braces against it with her outspoken activism, awareness raising and her challenging of norms.
In Welsh towns and cities dinah has called out the names of murdered women as a performance; around her on the ground lay numerous handmade ceramic female figurines.
The use of domestic items, such as furniture, utensils and books within the exhibitions is intended to show the fragile border between domesticity and violence, that for many women and children home, is not a safe place.
According to ONS figures for the year ending 2021, around a third of adult female homicide victims are killed by partners or ex-partners, almost half (49%) were killed in a domestic homicide, while among children, the most common suspect was a parent or step-parent (42%, 25 offences).
Her previous exhibition, ‘manslaughter’ featured, among the innovative and beautiful counting mechanisms, great handmade books, recording the loss of women’s lives and their histories, which are currently on tour in Scandinavia.
From 1980 to 1997 dinah was not able to read at home. In December 2015 coercion and controlling behaviour was made a criminal offence in the UK with a possible prison sentence up to 5 years or a fine or both.
But dinah loves to read and as part of this exhibition she will be at Art Central from 9.30am to 4.30pm on 29 July reading to herself, reading to visitors, listening to visitors read to her or simply sitting together and reading.
She invites viewers and readers to drop in anytime, and says she’ll have books for all ages with her, books that she has loved, books she read to her children.
The private view/opening takes place on Sat 2 July 1.30 – 3.30pm and on 9 July she will be in conversation with Jackie Jones and Gerda Roper from 1.30 – 3.30pm with refreshments at 1pm
Between 9.30 and 3.30 on 6 August she will be present as a ‘Wish Administrator’, assisting in processing wishes, promising ‘No wish too small or too great. Tell no one, just come to Art Central and your wish will be processed.’
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