Breaking a framework of female stereotypes

BEIRUT: Women don’t care about politics. They only think about their appearance. They don’t want to be involved in public life. These are among the stereotypes the exhibition “Break All Frames,” now up at Beit Beirut, is trying to combat.

The show opened Friday evening and is a collaboration among the NGO Women in Front, the United Nations Development Program, the Lebanese Elections Assistance Project and the European Union.

“The exhibition aims to challenge stereotypes and shatter misconceptions of Lebanese women,” an exhibition press release said.

“That Lebanese women don’t care about politics [and are] only aware of their physical appearance,” said co-curator and Women in Front CEO Nada Adin, “... are the kinds of stereotypes we’re working on.”

“We want more women in politics,” Adin told The Daily Star, “and more women in decision-making positions.”

This time the NGO decided to use cultural production to get people thinking about the stereotypes about women they may harbor.

Standing before one of her works four sculptures depicting a woman on her journey through life Leila Jabre-Jureidini said the piece was inspired by her own experience.

“Overcoming, breathing, balance and moving mountains. [They represent] what lies ahead of her, the different stages of her life,” she said. “Women, contrary to men, have many layers. Men only go to work and then they come back. It’s a lot to worry about, I know, but women have so many other things to think about.”

Jabre-Jureidini’s fourth sculpture, a bronze depicting a woman moving a mountain of granite, is being shown for the first time.

“This is the mountain she has to move to reach equality,” she said.

“Because he doesn’t have this mountain to move, [the man] is not even present.”

Jabre-Jureidini said her installation would be completely different if a woman’s journey through life were closer to that of a man’s.

“Everybody has challenges, obstacles. It has nothing to do with being a man or a woman,” she said.

“You would have this [mountain], but not the same. Men and women would be equally facing this mountain. It would change the theme. It wouldn’t just be a woman.”

The curators also invited male artists to contribute to the show.

“I am happy to see males among the artists,” Philippe Lazzarini, United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator, remarked at the opening.

“Despite our gender, we all have a responsibility to drive change and promote women’s leadership, participation and representation.

“That may mean giving up some of the space we, as men, currently hold in politics, business and the security sector.”

“Break All Frames” comprises 50 pieces by 30 artists (24 women, six men) reflecting a multifaceted vision of Lebanese women women on their own, in relation to other women, men.

“The visions on women are very different,” co-curator Bassam Kahwagi observed. “A lot of artwork here talks in a controversial way. It is not only the kind, positive, strong, involved woman. It is different aspects of women.”

Kahwagi said finalizing the selection of work to be shown took some time. “You start getting offers,” he said, “images of different things.

“You have a huge pack of artwork that goes opposite to our concept.

“It generally puts the woman just as a body, a consumable body on a canvas, or in an image, and that was exactly what we didn’t want for this exhibition,” he added.

“Cruciferous,” an enormous canvas by hyperrealist painter Flavia Codsi, is a self-portrait showing a female figure, seemingly at peace, holding a piece of broccoli, a tattoo blossoming over her mastectomy scar. “The honesty,” Codsi said of her work, “[I’m] talking about a topic that people don’t like to talk about. And nudity. I expose my breast, and I’m talking frankly about my experience.”

“Break all Frames” is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Dec. 7 at Beit Beirut, Sodeco.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 03, 2018, on page 12.




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