According to UN Women:
- Worldwide up to 50% of assaults are committed against girls under age 16.
- The first sexual experience of 30% of women was forced.
- Women and girls account for 80% of the 800,000 people trafficked across borders annually. Of these, 79% are exploited sexually.
- In 1993 the United Nations General Assembly created an initiative called the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, yet more than 20 years later, 1 in 3 women still experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by someone they know.
- Native and indigenous women experience violence at a significantly higher rate throughout the world.
While the reasons for the persistence of violence against women are too complex to delve into here, what is clear is that many around the world are taking the solutions into their own hands. For the women of Mujeres Grabando Resistencias / Women Engraving Resistance, the response is political activism in the form of art, specifically printmaking. Due to the ability to create many prints from one single carved block, printmaking has always been used as a way to spread a message quickly to the masses. In the case of MGR, it is a form of positive propaganda, and since their inception, the women of this print collective have used the power of print to spread an urgent message of social change.
Mujeres Grabando Resistencias is a collective of 14 mujeres (women) from Mexico City with origins in the Escuela de Cultura Popular Martires del ’68, a larger political art collective. The mujeres come from diverse backgrounds. Some are professional artists and some are not, yet they are united by their common causes of (to name a few) anti-femicide, a woman’s right to her own body, and her right to feel safe in the streets. Their current campaign, with its latest stop at Electric Machete Studios, called Vivas Nos Queremos (We Want Ourselves Alive), has traveled the world diffusing its messages through poignant, intricate artworks.
The concept of Nos/Otras (We/Other) is deeply embedded in the works of Mujeres Grabando Resistencias. Nos/Otras is an ideology that acknowledges each individual as a microcosm of the whole. As the collective has said, ‘what happens to one, happens to us all’. The concept also gives the group anonymity, and each artwork produced within the group goes unsigned. The result is an emboldening of the artist, as she need fear being targeted for her acts of resistance. The message practically leaps off the page in a flurry of lines, letters, and symbols.
The use of words is a common theme in printmaking, and Mujeres Grabando Resistencias use them to their maximum effect. When I first viewed the pieces, it was what was written that moved me the most. The artworks declare,”Un Dia Ya No Tendré Miedo De Andar Por La Calle,Ya No Tendré Miedo De Morir Por Su Machismo”/ “One Day I Will Not Be Afraid To Walk In The Streets, I Will Not Be Afraid Of Dying Because Of Your Machismo” and, “No Es Suficiente Sobrevivir, La Vida De Las Mujeres Importa”/ "It’s Not Enough To Just Survive, The Lives of Women Matter".
But perhaps the most striking thing about the Vivas Nos Queremos series is the optimism that unites the body of work. Birds and butterflies with their underlying meanings of migration, flight and metamorphosis uplift and empower each piece. Flowers are scattered liberally signifying reverence, growth or femininity. Taking center stage are the strong woman figures, each telling a different story with her eyes alone. No matter how grave the subject matter, whether it be death or rape, she looks resilient, surrounded by tokens of hope and prosperity.
In one particularly striking print inscribed “Matarme Te Hizo Más Hombre?”/ “Did Killing Me Make You More Of A Man?”, the lone female figure stares almost contemplatively into the distance, arms crossed, with strands of her hair lifted by two hummingbirds. She’s surrounded by an aura of pure open space, among a bed of flowers, emanating from beyond this world. She represents those who, like herself, are victims of femicide. Yet she has become more than a statistic, instead appearing as a celestial, angelic figure. Everything about her says, although I have been victimized, I am still free. The hummingbirds, a symbol of the warrior in Aztec culture, lift her away from the earth triumphantly.
Author: Reynaldo J. Lara, Writer, Arts-Enrichment Teacher, Co-Founder of Electric Machete Studios