April 12, 2012
I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim,
and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.
La novia que se se espanta de ver la vida abierta.
The bride frightened at seeing life opened.
I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone,
because I am the person I know best.
I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.
I used to think I was the strangest person in the world
but then I thought there are so many people in the world,
there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre
and flawed in the same ways I do.
I would imagine her,
and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too.
Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that,
yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.
April 10, 2012
On June 6, 2012, Allegra La Viola will open The Invisible Line, the first New York City solo show by Ellen Jong. The exhibition, which is curated by mr. and mrs. Olu, will feature photographs from Jong’s self-published monograph, Getting to Know My Husband’s Cock. It features 25 framed works, a mixed media installation, and will be accompanied by a Happening, which invites participation from one and all to cross their own Invisible Line.
The Invisible Line is the demarcation between fear and fearlessness. It is that thing that holds us back, or thrusts us forth into the great, wild, unknown space where possibility that makes every life so perfectly unique. To cross or not to cross, that is the question. But who could be an artist if they allowed fear to dictate their creative process?
As Jong observes, “There is an invisible line that lies between my body and my mind. It withholds my deepest beliefs, fears, curiosities and desires. It is there to protect me. It is there to tell others where I stand, what is mine and why I am. In falling in love, I lost sight of my invisible line and I let it go. Love breaks down walls and sets you free.”
For Jong, the creation of her monograph echoes the process of falling in love. She had to face her deepest fears and release them into the universe. The result was not just the success of having her work well received, it was the commitment every artist must make to themselves—to persevere by every means….
April 2, 2012
There is so much we take for granted in this life, like knowing the date of our birth. Like knowing our parents. Like knowing who we are. And where we come from. Because, we can use this as our path, or we can choose to let this go. But what if you never had this? What if you never know?
Somaly Mam does not know when she was born. Or to whom. She was orphaned in Cambodia during the war, and she grew up in the forest, without a name. Until a family took her in, and gave her the name she carries today. And of all names, it would be Mam, because she is mother to thousands of girls. And to me, a saint.
Her story is not pretty, yet she is beautiful. Radiant of heart, light, spirit eternal. Never have I known such a person was real. Never did I believe one person has the power to change the world. No matter what their circumstances.
Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Never let them steal your shine. Somaly Mam is a saint and a goddess and a heroine and a mother and she is divine. And, ohh, did I mention? She is totally down to earth. I don’t know her very well, but in the few moments in which we have shared, I felt this feeling that a saint is someone who is as real as flesh, as human as blood, and what makes her special is that she not only speaks the truth but she puts her life on the line.
Happy Birthday Somaly. Although I cannot be with you this evening, I am with you in spirit. You have changed my life in ways I do not understand and it is my dream that one day I should be able to give back to the world what you have given to me.
February 6, 2012
“Pity little girl. Why are you behaving like death will not come to you? Pity you… May God save you… Hmmmmmmmmmmm.”
This comment was submitted to my blog for approval after I posted a story on Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, the twenty-year old communications major who gained worldwide attention when she posted a naked photograph of herself on Twitter with the hash tag #nuderevolutionaryphoto in October 2011.
In the black and white photograph, she stands facing the camera, the intensity of her gaze heightened by her thigh-high stockings, red shoes, and red bow. Elmahdy told CNN, “I am not shy of being a woman in a society where women are nothing but sex objects harassed on a daily basis by men who know nothing about sex or the importance of a woman. The photo is an expression of my being and I see the human body as the best artistic representation of that. I took the photo myself using a timer on my personal camera. The powerful colors black and red inspire me.” Red, black, and white, the colors of the Egyptian flag….
December 26, 2011
Aliaa, what a nice name, good physical features, I mean young, fresh and blossoming only with a strong and probably negative heart and ego, surely there are many ways of expressing your feelings and motives than by showing your precious body to the whole world, what now remains for you is to start moving around NAKED. I wonder what religion you are practising, bcos NO religion promotes this sort of act neither do our (African) traditions and morals. Please find another decent way of expressing yourself, though I dont know you but I feel I like you to the level of giving you a sensible advise. Thanks and I pray for good things in your life.
Hassan Aliyu Shehu left this comment today on my post to Aliaa Magda Elmahdy. I’ve been thinking about what it means. To be choose to be nude before the whole world. As a New Yorker, the body is a commodity. Maybe that’s what freedom means. At least, here and now. In the twenty-first century. We as women are free to use our bodies for any purpose we wish, and no longer is it political because that moment in America has passed. From Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party to Kim Kardashian’s sex tape. And we talk about progress like it’s a good thing. But maybe it’s more complex than that.
But Egypt is not America, and Aliaa’s act is one that is so powerful I feel overwhelmed trying to understand what it must mean. To be a woman in Egypt today, fighting for freedom, subject to virginity tests. That’s the least of what she’s up against. Mind blowing hostility, hatred, social control. Freedoms we take for granted are subject to death threats in another part of this world.
When will the body—both male and female—be seen as a work of Nature, rather than a product of Society? Can we look with love, with admiration, with respect, or will our hearts always fill with lust, with anger, with disgust? Will we celebrate or condemn, will we wrap our fears in religion and groupthink? Will we support or fight her wish for freedom on her terms?
To be naked before the whole world is a political act when there is nothing to be sold. But once that ground has broken, something is lost and something is found. I live in a world where women use their bodies for profit, as though objectification at the hands of oneself is an honorable act. Is this the future of Aliaa’s mission? Self determination. Self exploitation. Where is the line?
I suppose it depends on where you stand.
From here I see Aliaa, a vanguard of the old school using new media to speak to the world. And by old school, I mean the cult of the goddess, a time when the woman’s body was worshiped and revered. A time when the female energy was honored for its power to bring life into the world. It was not superior, nor was it inferior, to masculine energy. It was complementary. It was yin to the yang. Two Equals One. Never tear us apart.
But we have been split, torn asunder, and the result is it takes a scream to be heard. It takes a twenty-year-old woman, a twenty-year-old girl. It takes an honest look at the nude form for us to ask What’s Going On? This is the oldest war in the world, the struggle for female self determination. Because she who controls life controls the future, and that’s a frightening prospect to many.
There is no right or wrong answer because the subject of nudity, sexuality, and the female body is a political game. Ideas are currency, currency is power. Perhaps the answer is not to be found in the examination of her ideology, but in the way she triggers us to answer for our own.
December 24, 2011
Of the many gift this year has brought, one of the greatest of them all is Somaly Mam. Her heart is so big, it radiates love. And that love brings women and children back from the dead, seven thousand and counting.
There is no way for me to explain the horrors of human trafficking. I have tried and failed and stood humble by the way in which people refuse to listen, the way they bury their head in the sand. It’s not their problem. It’s not their concern. If it aint I, Me, Mine, so the F what?
There but for the grace of God go I. I know that much. This could be me, or any other woman on this earth. Two million women and children every year will disappear, they will be sold, lies will be spread, the crime will continue, Ceaselessly. If not for people like Somaly. Who refuse to let this go on. Who put their lives on the line to fight for the Good. The Noble. The Pure.
I’ve never met a Saint. I didn’t know such a person existed. Until I met Somaly, and realized what it means to make a difference.
December 7, 2011
Samira Ibrahim : 35 yrs old was forced to strip and have her virginity checked in front of officers and army police and chose not to avenge her dignity so she filed a lawsuit in front of the Egyptian law. No attention, no audience, no publicity, no one gave her the time of day.
Aliaa Elmahdy: 20 yrs old stripped naked and showed her body of her own free will so she caught the audience attention and the media. Around 3 million viewers saw her online picture and no less than 50 articles were written and several TV shows covered the news.
December 5, 2011
December 3, 2011
After 16 years in pictures I could not be intimidated easily,
because I knew where all the skeletons were buried.
As Daddy said, life is 95 percent anticipation.
I feel sure that unborn babies pick their parents.
I’ve given my memoirs far more thought than any of my marriages.
You can’t divorce a book.
Life and death. They are somehow sweetly and beautifully mixed,
but I don’t know how.
That’s the story of my private life.