Silent Silhouettes: Poster Art in Activism
| By Khadija Sinanan
WOMANTRA is a Caribbean based feminist organization focused on woman and female centred scholarship, activism and social programs. In 2008, the first incarnation of the ‘Silent Silhouettes’ project was launched by Stephanie Leitch and Michelle Isava to commemorate the lives of women who died as a result of domestic violence. The project included an installation of human form plywood cut-outs and a performance art piece.
In November 2014, as part of the ’16 Days of Activism’ campaign to raise awareness about violence against women, the concept of ‘Silent Silhouettes’ was reprised in a ‘Poster Project’ designed by Amanda T. Mc Intyre, featuring the artwork of Portia Subran and Aleaux. It is a core set of thirteen posters, each with a stylized female form and the details of age and the manner in which each person was killed. The posters were installed in different locations in Trinidad and were also published online.
If we regard feminism as a movement that seeks to reinforce the natural legitimacy of women and female-identified persons, then we must note that violence against women and female-identified persons is a signifier of their disenfranchisement. Oppression occurs either indirectly through policy or directly through human interaction and violence is the most direct oppression because it not only interrupts agency but it is an assault on the physical body with the potential to actually destroy life; to cut off days and power.
The ‘Silent Silhouettes Poster Campaign’ deals specifically with domestic violence. In our campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence, and to promote the elimination of all forms violence against women, it is important to acknowledge not only the lives of women, but all female-identified persons who have died. We understand that the statistics are not a correct reflection of the phenomenon. Through art, we engage a space in which death is not final. Through art, we engage a space in which these persons can LIVE AGAIN AND LIVE FOREVER.
WOMANTRA continues to apply poster art in awareness campaigns, always giving great consideration to the representational politics in: the design and production of the posters, the composition of the organizing and mobilizing teams, the areas selected for installations and the targeted demographics.
In planning future projects of this nature, we are revising our approach to include, in the design of the posters, not only women but also female-identified persons. The urgency around the specific issue of intimate partner violence among lesbians, queer women and transgendered women is even greater than the traditional associations of this phenomena to women generally, because the statistical representation of these groups is skewed by factors associated with their particular oppressions.
The ‘Silent Silhouettes Poster Campaign’ continues in 2015 and WOMANTRA invites support from other organizations or interested persons in this mission.
*Khadija Sinanan is an Attorney-at-Law from Trinidad and Tobago and together with founder, Stephanie Leitch and Amanda McIntyre, she co-directs the youth-led feminist non-profit organization, WOMANTRA. Khadija was the recipient of a National Scholarship (Languages) in 2008.
While doing her undergraduate degree, Khadija was exposed to gender studies and feminist legal theory, through the course – Gender and the Law, taught by the eminent Tracy Robinson of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. During law school, Khadija went on to volunteer with the non-governmental organisation ASPIRE (Advocates for Safe Parenthood, Improving Reproductive Equity) based in T&T. Through her experience there, she gained invaluable insight into the gender and SRHR advocacy landscape of Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2013 Khadija was selected as one of Women Deliver’s 100 Global Young Leaders. In addition to her work with WOMANTRA, Khadija is the founder of a mentorship programme for young women between the ages for 14 to 17 who live in and around the village of Matura (Trinidad) and environs.