Novem

Novem addresses the aftermath of Feminicide in Mexico. Feminicide is the killing of women because of their gender, in which outrageous acts of violence are visible. The term “feminicide” encompasses the imbalance of the gender power structures, and the corruption and neglect from the authorities surrounding these murders, manifesting in the thousands of women and girls being killed each year. This attitude of neglect deeply affects the grieving processes of the families of the victims, hindering their possibility of their overcoming the tragedy.

 

The disruption of grieving the processes is part of the aftermath of feminicide, and I address it through textiles and materials rooted in my Mexican cultural background: rebozos crystallized with salt. The rebozo is a rectangular shawl associated with gender roles and to death practices. Salt is a purifying element present on the altars dedicated to departed loved ones during the celebrations of the Day of the Dead. Its use is linked to the belief that salt prevents the souls of the deceased from being “corrupted” when they visit the realm of the living.

 

The exhibition was accompanied by an audio component that created a cohesive environment with all the pieces and the lighting of the gallery. The overlapped women’s voices spark a feeling of unease, as they confront the viewer with the impotence families feel as a result of the government’s neglect and their sense of insecurity. It seems that the only option left them is to pray. The unintelligible voices whisper novenario prayers in Spanish, with one phrase standing out from the rest: Ruega por nosotras(pray for us), the conjugation referencing only females. The repetitive prayer echoes the ritualized processes throughout my practice and emphasizes the conflicting, interrupted and unresolved emotions associated with feminicide. 

 

Novem aims to create an experiential space wherein the silence of mourning, and the painful whispered prayers mix, as viewers witness the works. My intention is to provide a quiet environment for contemplation and for sharing the distress and anguish of grieving families in Mexico. Novem’s rebozos have adopted a skeletal appearance. The constant dripping of water and salt slowly reduced these embodied entities to bones. As an allegory for the journey to Mictlán, these “bodies” endure the passage of time, leaving only mementos behind: bones and hair preserved in salt.

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© 2020 by Claudia Chagoya.