Behind Closed Doors: “Voices of Silence” Exhibition Sheds Light on Domestic Violence

Behind Closed Doors: “Voices of Silence” Exhibition Sheds Light on Domestic Violence

By Nargiz Abbasova

The topic of domestic violence has garnered increased attention in recent years, and various events aim to shed light on this pressing issue. One such event is the powerful exhibition “Voices of Silence” by multidisciplinary artist Aydan Salahova, currently on display at the Yarat Art Center. This exhibition narrates the harrowing stories of individuals suffering from domestic violence in Azerbaijan and beyond. Art critic Mansura Mammadaliyeva provides a poignant analysis of the exhibition, delving into its emotional and symbolic depth.

An Artistic Exploration of Hidden Suffering

Mammadaliyeva describes the exhibition’s entrance as a spacious, minimalist space, where viewers are greeted by a series of 12 agalay stone jugs of varying sizes. These jugs, with their convex carvings, represent people enduring domestic violence. The engravings on the jugs evoke ancient pictographic writing, adding a layer of mystery and depth to the pieces. Mammadaliyeva emphasizes that these carvings compel the viewer to confront the hidden and often unspoken realities of domestic abuse, making the aesthetic experience profoundly emotional.

“These installations shed light on the unseen, hidden from the public, secret aspects of life stories that seem aesthetic and pleasant at first glance. As you listen, you are shaken. Each of the cubes arranged in a dynamic form is decorated with various geometric and floral ornaments, mythological images, as well as symbols,” says Mammadaliyeva.

The Symbolism of Hands: Creation and Destruction

A recurring motif in the exhibition is the image of a hand. This symbol captures the duality of human potential for both creation and destruction. The exhibition includes haunting excerpts of abusive language, phrases that highlight the brutal control and violence inflicted upon victims.

“He is my property, I do with him what I want,” and “You will not be a nurse, I will cut off your hand and hide it,” are among the chilling statements echoed within the jugs.

Mammadaliyeva draws connections between these modern testimonies and historical and mythological representations of hands. In many cultures, hands symbolize power, creativity, and authority. Throughout history, aggressive phrases like “I’ll break your hands” have been used to intimidate and silence women, reinforcing the patriarchal system’s control over them.

Highlighting the Struggle and Strength of Women

The exhibition also underscores the ongoing struggle of women for autonomy and voice. For centuries, women have fought to assert their rights, yet the battle continues. Mammadaliyeva notes that the stories presented in the exhibition reflect a reality where women’s strength and potential are often suppressed by patriarchal norms.

“This exhibition emphasizes the need to cover cases of violence, opposing the idea that they should remain hidden in society. No individual, especially women, who are harmed by patriarchal values should remain silent. They must participate, without shame, with courage, in the coverage of their darkest stories,” asserts Mammadaliyeva.

Reaching the Right Audience

Mammadaliyeva also raises a critical point about the venue of the exhibition. She argues that while the Yarat Art Center provides an essential platform, the exhibition should reach a broader audience, including those who might not typically engage with such topics. By presenting the exhibition in diverse settings, particularly in communities where patriarchal values are deeply rooted, there is potential for significant societal change.

“Voices of Silence” is not just an exhibition; it is a call to action, a poignant reminder of the hidden suffering endured by many, and a powerful plea for awareness and change. By bringing these stories to light, Salahova’s work challenges viewers to confront uncomfortable truths and advocates for a society where no one’s story remains unheard.