By Ivana Bilić
In the fourth day blog, I am bringing you some interesting insights from the exhibition “Status” by Mimoza Sahiti, curated by Albert Heta in the Boxing Club of Prishtina; and the very playful, almost naïve play “Girls” in the Dodona theater.
IF YOU HAVE AN URGE, YOU NEED TO GET IT OUT
Mimoza Sahiti, born and raised in Germany, studied at the Faculty of Economics, but started asking herself: “why am I doing this?” During her studies, she painted all the time, and before the pandemic, she happened to come back to her home in Komogllavë in Kosovo. It was a kind of comeback to her roots. She painted all the time, she painted odd things; people from the village would come to see her because she was the first one in her family to paint; no one had painted before, so they were asking where it came from. People would get interested or laugh at her odd shapes and whimsical characters.
During the pandemic she felt anxious and produced many paintings, but she painted during her studies as well, probably out of frustration over doing something she didn’t like. Mimoza wanted to start Art school in Germany, but got rejected three times. She took basic painting classes instead. And she continued creating, painting. She collected all her works for exhibit during this edition of FemArt. The way the paintings were created match perfectly with the motto of burning your fear away, of looking for freedom, of expressing oneself.
Her art is something unconventional. She often paints human figures, naked female bodies, odd shapes, or animals. That certainly mirrors her state of searching for herself, looking towards her roots to find the missing pieces of the puzzle. “Even though I lived in Germany, I still had two Albanian parents, I needed to fight to go out, fight to get a tattoo, fight to smoke, etc…” And since they were six children at home, she was never raised with any special notion of being a woman. As she was discovering her femininity in the real sense of the word, her art was developing as well. Her art represents feminism, liberation from fear and anxiety and other burdens; making personal choices to do things you really want and stand for.
Ten girls enter the stage in bathrobes with hearts and stars and colorful stockings with flowers and other shapes. They are all different – they wear different colors, have different interests, they’re of different heights and eye or hair color; but they all have one thing in common: they’re girls.
The girls start the story from a very early age – from what they want to play with, to being tattletales when they are school aged. From playing with dolls to first loves. From teenhood to adolescence. But as the play evolves, we can see that it is not as innocent as we initially thought. Although ostensibly a very light and joyful performance, with a lot of child-like music and a story for children, this is actually something completely different. This is a performance for adults. This is a performance pointing fingers at us because we were silent, because we said things like “boys will be boys”; “he slaps you because he is into you”, “you provoked him”, etc. Jokes become sexual harassment, sexual harassment becomes sexual violence, and it leads to the well-known outcomes. Because we did not protect our girls. We fail to protect them every time even one single girl is assaulted or harassed. And, unfortunately, it happens all the time. Everywhere.
The way the girls got together was through an audition in May last year. The first requirement was that they were young women between the age of 18 and 26, because the author considered that as the age span where they would have experienced similar things. Another requirement was that they had never acted before. As part of the application process, they needed to respond to a questionnaire consisting of a series of different questions such as “What did you do when you were a little girl, what did you like, what did you play with, etc.” and then during the summer they attended different schools on feminism and other life lessons. All of that prepared them for their new feminist roles. Then, in September, the process of rehearsals started and the play premiered in December 2022. Such a great idea for research and awareness-raising through a seemingly playful and light-hearted performance!
The more they play and more the roles they exchange – with their moms, in buses, in schools, with classmates – the scarier it seems. The more they grow up and mature, the more they become aware of the danger women live in. The more they travel and open up, the more they realize how bigoted and unknowable the environment they live in is. The only place they feel safe are the protests, when they protest with their girlfriends. They become aware of sexual harassment, of femicide, women’s rights and the lack of them, the political situation, songs that promote violence against women…you can keep going. The system is so unjust towards girls.
But these girls spoke up tonight, they raised their voices, they got together stronger. They are brave, ready to fight like girls. They are courageous and fearless. They burned their fears away.