Category Archives: Pakistan

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A little over a week ago I broke my elbow after a fall with my bicycle on some of Antwerp’s historic cobblestones…

Sadly this means I won’t be able to photograph for a while and create new work. To keep things moving and by way of sharing a bit of my archive work, I’ve started sharing some of my photographs and thoughts or stories on my instagram feed.

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It’s also a nice way to share some images that won’t make the cut and so won’t end up in my first photo book ‘In praise of shadows’.

Hope you’ll like the work 🙂

 

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Pakistan Photo Festival Fellowship

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I’m very excited and honored to be one of the jury members for the very first Pakistan Photo Festival Fellowship.

The goal of the fellowship is to help build a stronger social documentary photography practice in Pakistan by helping 15 selected students in developing in depth work on issue-based multi-media projects that highlight some of the most pressing social, economic, legal and rights struggles in the country.

The deadline to submit is the 20th of February 2017, so don’t hesitate to apply or share this with any Pakistani photographers who is interested in documenting in depth stories and who you think might benefit from this experience.

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Happy 2017

‘A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song’
Maya Angelou

 

The past year yet again has been filled with wonderful people, some personal challenges, beautiful travel and inspiring moments.

Working and writing on my first book ‘In praise of shadows’ has been/ and is amazing in every way imaginable.
I hope to share the final result and many more other stories, with an equal amount of passion as always, in 2017.

For now, wishing you a happy and love filled new year.

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We together

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I’ve just returned from a wonderful visit to Graz, Austria, where I attended the opening of the group exhibition ‘We Together’, curated by Maryam Mohammadi.

“We together” brings together female artists with backgrounds in the Middle East, as well as in Europe and the USA. They have in common that they are critical in their photography and video work with female identities and everyday environments, personal situations, dependencies, gender roles and the political changes in a regional as well as global context. 14 different views on women by women.

My work from ‘Hamida’s camp pregnancy‘ was included among the work by fantastic artists like Boushra Almutawakel, Raeda Saadeh, Sonja Hamid and Emine Gozde Sevim to name just a few.

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Raeda Saadeh danced during an intense and haunting performance at the vernissage, visited by a big crowd. Meeting her, getting to know her work, spending some days with both her and Maryam has been heartwarming. Raeda’s vision as an artist, Maryam’s drive and passion to show the world a different view and get people together and connected is incredibly inspiring. Do take a moment to get to know their work.

Until the 18th of December on view in Schaumbad – Freies Atelierhaus, Graz

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#dysturb

schermafbeelding-2016-10-16-om-09-45-03©Nathalie Majerus

I’m so happy and honored that Valentin Bianchi included my photograph of Maryam (not her real name) and her mom in the #dysturb project plastered on the wall of the city of Liège here in Belgium.

#Dysturb is an incredible project created by Pierre Tjerdman and Benjamin Girettein response to the lack of publications of specific news topics in our mainstream media.
They decided to plaster their images on the walls of Paris and with a proper caption, inform people in the city about things happening around the world which magazines and newspapers didn’t publish.

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And so now it’s the first time #dysturb is hitting Belgium streets and I couldn’t be happier that they chose an image of mine from the ‘Because I’m a girl’ series on Rape in Pakistan.
The topic of rape, violation and sexual predatory behavior now even seems more of an acute topic with a horrible man like Donald Trump running for the office of President of the United States of America while publicly denouncing and degrading women, even on record saying how he forces himself on women by kissing and groping them without their consent.
It’s beyond mind boggling and I would recommend you watching a speech that Michelle Obama gave a good week ago, stating perfectly what I feel on the topic.

“Strong men, who are truly ROLE MODELS, don’t need to put down Women”

It’s estimated that worldwide 1 in 5 women will become the victim of rape or attempted rape during her life.
Violence against women is prevalent all over the world and rape in particular has become a ‘weapon of war’ and tool to systematically oppress, control and marginalize women.

I started working on the topic of rape in Pakistan in 2011 and continue to do so on each visit. It’s so important as it is still very much a taboo subject.
In Pakistan around 85% of women face various forms of gender-based violence.
Women and girls are being murdered, kidnapped, raped, killed for honor, have acid thrown on to them.
The Pakistani government rarely takes action and the perpetrators are hardly punished. Unreliable statistics hide the actual magnitude of the problem. Data gathered by the police is notoriously unreliable because of underreporting of cases or their refusal to lodge F.I.R.’s (First Information Report) needed to start criminal procedures.

Maryam (not her real name) was raped by her school teacher when she was just 5 years old.
When asked what the biggest change in her daughter was after the rape happened, Maryam’s mother said she wasn’t carefree anymore and didn’t smile as often as she used to…

I walked to the rape and murder site with the father of Ali, a boy who was raped and killed in the outskirts of Karachi. His grandmother crying while the family told me the horrific story of what had happened.

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Besides suffering psychological trauma and the attached stigmatization, the women and their families are often harassed by the families of the rapist.
They blackmail the victims and try to persuade them into dropping the case or settle out of court. Like Jamila, mother of Sobia, a girl who was raped and killed by a young men who she went to school with and whose wedding proposal she refused. The culprit ran away and still to this day is not found and brought to justice. Meanwhile the neighborhood threaten to abuse Jamila’s other still surviving daughter Sana, hoping the family will then drop their court case.

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It’s an uphill battle for all the victims and families I met. Young girls get robbed of their smiles, some women carry lasting physical scars, boys are as vulnerable as girls, their innocence easily taken away.

As always, I continue to work on these topics that become personal to me once you know some of the families. I hope having my image plastered on the walls of Liège and writing about it here will add a little drop of awareness one way or the other.

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Sick of it all

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Belgium has been rocked by extreme violence last week, with the brutal bomb blasts in the airport and metro of Brussels, killing and wounding so many people.

After following the news that day in what felt like a haze, making sure all my friends living and working in Brussels were safe, I knew things in Belgium will never be the same again. From now on there will be a before… and an after…
I won’t let fear stop me from taking another flight at Brussels airport and when visiting friends or places in town, I will still take the metro. But in the back of your mind, a thought will always, ever so slightly cross your mind…
Will I be safe…

And then today… Another heinous suicide attack in Lahore, Pakistan, killing at least 69 people, wounding hundreds.. mostly women and children. Targeted specifically on this day, Easter, against the Christian Minority of Lahore.
Another attack in a countless number of them that Pakistan has known over the years, where we don’t really hear world leaders speaking up.

Again religion being misused by extremists, to kill human beings who are enjoying an evening out in the park with their families, friends hanging out, generally people having a good time, not hurting anyone. Gone…

I’ve come to know many Christian families in Pakistan and photographed for a while in a Christian community in Islamabad a few years ago. And what I always try to do in all my work is show the person in my photographs. A humanity, shared humanity, so we don’t focus on our differences, but on what we have in common. Rich or poor, black or white, Muslim, Christian or Atheist, in the first place we are human being who want the same things in life.

Why?  How can they kill in the name of anything really? On the basis of another God you worship? Another color of ones skin? Another language you speak? What makes them decide they have the right to choose that another life, another human being is not worth living and you can just kill them off? Just like that…

I’m just so sick of it all…

 

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Sheema gi

On this International Women’s day, I want to introduce you to an amazing woman that I am honored to call my friend.

Sheema Kermani, dancer, theatre director and activist from Karachi, Pakistan.

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She lives in a country where women’s rights still have a long way to go. Where some laws might be changing slowly in favor of equal rights, but where implementing these laws is not really happening yet.

She lives in a place where people still look down upon the art of dancing, deemed as unislamic and improper.

All that doesn’t stop Sheema, who is a true force of energy, which is needed to keep motivated in advocating change that isn’t effecting in immediate results. She teaches the Indian classical dance art like Bharatanatyam and Odissi to young women and uses theatre to bring messages of equal rights, violence against women, rape etc to villages all over Pakistan where the majority of the people can’t even read or write.

In an interview with her she also says this: ‘The arts and the women of Pakistan have been the two major victims of Zia’s policies. The state introduced legal and social forms of control over women as part of its campaign of suppression and made women’s sexuality their business. State forces were preoccupied with women’s dress, their movements, their sexuality and their very presence in public spaces. In the name of religion, laws like the “Hudood Ordinances”, “Qisas”, “Diyat” and “Blasphemy Laws” were introduced and are prime examples of laws that devalue women, arts and humanity. The very first programme that was banned on PTV by Gen. Zia ul Haq was ‘Payal,’ a dance programme. But as it happens with anything that is banned, people always find a way to circumvent it. We do not announce our institution as a dance academy. We offer training in dance but call it movement classes. I run Tehrik-e-Niswan and we use dance as a movement for theatre of protest.’

Women like Sheema are an inspiration to me. They breathe energy and power. The power of women.

So… happy women’s day Sheema. Thank you for being a beautiful part of my life.

 

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Happy 2016

Pakistan

© Wendy Marijnissen

I want to wish you a wonderful and happy 2016.

Thank you so much for following my adventures and photographic encounters both at home and on the road.  Here’s to continuing following your path and dreams.

“But who can say what’s best? That’s why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.”  – from Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

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