'Between Speech and Breath' - by Shaheen Sultan Dhanji
My oil and charcoal painting 'Between Speech and Breath' is about boundaries faced by young girls and women living in patriarchal and parochial society filled with dark shadows of blood and death, struggle and resistance - echoing the pains and conflicts associated with loss of self-identity as a woman. She, who is, a child at age eleven is given away to a man thrice her age (known in South Asia and Central Asia as jirga /karo kari system - child bride) in marriage, it is when two parties are in conflict and a girl is given away to settle a score amongst the two men in dispute. An eleven year old is sacrificed to a forty-four year old man -- where is justice for her? Are we just spectators to know of her story and then shut our blinds in our luxurious homes and forget that a young girl is raped each night - it is not a marriage, but, her body sacrificed thousand times more as a child-bride! Yesterday she was an innocent girl who may not have even experienced menstrual cycle as yet; the next day she is wiping blood from the bed sheets, alone. Did she wash her rapist' sins, or, does she feel it is her 'duty' as his wife to keep washing the blood stains?!
How many young girls and women - massacres to survive? Who could speak across such spaces - between speech and breath?
- Shaheen Sultan Dhanji