Poignant. Compelling. Gripping. These three words encompass what I felt as I walked through 11 Women Facing War, the latest special exhibition presented by the Canadian War Museum. An array of raw emotions echoed deep within me as I came face to face with Olja, Mariatu, Dzidza, Amanda, Efrat, Nasrin, Qualam, Sarah, Shinaz, Zakiya, and Mah-Bibi, 11 courageous women who have survived some of the most devastating armed-conflicts of recent times and whose stories have been captured by renowned photojournalist Nick Danziger.
The context of the exhibition is quite interesting: In 2001, the International Committee of the Red Cross asked Danziger to record the stories of 11 women and girls affected by war in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Sierra Leone, and Colombia through photography and personal accounts. All of them had survived incredible violence and loss and their futures were at risk.
Ten years later, Danziger decided to find each woman in order to learn how their lives had changed a decade after they first met. Surprisingly, he was able to locate them and they agreed to update him about their current situations and ongoing hardships.
The result of this project brings forth a touching exhibition which captures the personal story of each woman through photography, intimate commentaries and videos. It gives the visitor a reality check, which ultimately makes the public think twice about how fortunate each of us are to be alive, healthy, happy and to live in a peaceful place. We tend to take so much for granted, but these 11 resilient women, who speak on behalf of thousands of others facing similar challenges in conflict zones, remind us to appreciate life’s simple pleasures and to love and be loved.
The photos, personal accounts and videos presented throughout the exhibition demonstrate how horrors of war become habit in places where there is sometimes nothing but hope to hold on to.
The exhibition, with its simplicity and sober design, allows us to focus on the human side of war and its devastating consequences on the brave women and children who reside in countries affected by the harsh realities of armed conflicts.
Mariatu Kamara, one of the women from Sierra Leone who was present for the official opening of the exhibition, will be back in Ottawa on March 7 on the occasion of International Women’s Day to share her tale of survival.
11 Women Facing War is a must-see exhibition for all walks of life and will be presented at the Canadian War Museum until April 21, 2013.