Syam Terrajana, Yogyakarta – Her eyes are sad. Her arms stretch out, palms facing up. One hand has a tray with cups on it, on another hand she has a bag hanging. In the bag were books. She stands straight even though her head is a bit down. Below are waves of water, blue. The visual art is Irene Wagab's work, titled Ona Pak-Pak Mani Tombora.
In another image, we see a drawing that looks like a playing card. Instead of a queen, or king, we see two figures like totems. On one figure was a sash with "Black Label" written on it, and an IV drip, a pile of skulls. On another, a Holy Bible. The acrylic painting on a paper is the work of Diana Yembisa, titled "Broken".
The works are part of an online exhibition called "Sa Pu Kisah: Buka Mata, Buka Hati" or "My Stories: Open Your Eyes, Open Your Hearts". The event was part of a digital campaign focusing on stories of Papuan women. The exhibition was initiated by a visual art group in Papua, Udeido, and Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR).
The campaign is an attempt to "amplify" the voice of Papuan women about their experiences in violence and conflicts they experience and their fight against them and move on in spite of the violence.
The violence the Papuan women experience could not be separated from a long conflict that had happened in Papua, since 1963, until today. The women have been the receiving end of violence done by the state and in the domestic realm.
Ten young visual artists from Papuan, all women, exhibited their works in this event. They are: Betty Adii, Blandina Yeimo, Diana Yembise, Irene Wagab, Nancy Nahuway, Ritha Karubuy, Nadili Aibini, Dessy Baru, Aquino Renwarin, Jenita Hilapok. The event was opened on March 8 to coincide with International Women's Day.
In her piece written for the event, Rut M. Ohoiwutun said that Papuan women suffered multilayers of violence. "Papuan women's problems today are related to domestic violence, gender equality, polygamy, and sexual violence. Papuan women also face impunity of (perpetrators of) gross human rights violations. The violence suffered by Papuan women are multilayers: domestic, cultural, and institutional. The women are also affected by the contemporary issues often talked about now: massive investment," wrote Ohoiwutun.
"Land grabbing, natural resources extraction and exploitation through state policies like the (Job Creation Law) that clearly sides with the transnational corporations like PT Freeport Indonesia, PT Korindo, PT Rajawali Group and other major companies that do business in Papua Land," she went on.
"Women access to land is diminishing, the right to use and manage land, an inherent part of women, has been neglected," she said.
In his curator's note, Ignasius Dicky Takndare quoted a report titled "Just Stop!" by Working Group on Documentation of Violence and Human Rights Violations from 1963-2009 and a finding by UN Women in Joint Programme on Combating Violence Against Women and Girls in Papua Province. The reports revealed that the rate of violence against women and children in Papua Land was the highest, 4.5 times the national average.
The artists expressed their stories in various techniques and style. Wagab used pastel colors. She told her story as a woman growing up in Fak Fak, who was limited by the cultural norms to be "only a lowly cook".
Yembise addressed alcoholism, drugs, which often leads to violence against women, husbands neglecting family duties. Nancy Nahuway painted on a canvas, a Papuan woman holds up her hands. On her ring finger is a wedding band, but the skin underneath oozes blood. On the painting called "Pain", she wrote some words on the palm of the woman's hand: emotional, gambling, alcohol, drugs, adultery.
[To see more of the artists' works, go to the online exhibition website: sapukisah.asia-ajar.org/pameran-online.]