‘Without stories ,there is silence.
Without stories told, we are voiceless.
Without our stories heard, we are invisible.
It is even harder, when the stories are hard to hear and impossible to imagine.’
– Belinda Mason 2014
Silent Tears is a multi-media exhibition by internationally renowned photographer Belinda Mason, and emerging artists with disability, Dieter Knierim, Margherita Coppolino and Denise Beckwith. The national component of Silent Tears has 25 participants from across Australia. The international component of Silent Tears, include the stories of 25 women with disability who come from five continents and 20 countries including New Zealand, Indonesia, Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Canada, Germany, Ghana, Mali, Pakistan, Samoa, USA, South Africa, India, Korea, Italy and the Netherlands.
Silent Tears fall at the moment when we feel the most alone, vulnerable and lost. They signal a turning point to look for hope, unity and strength. The power of this exhibition lies within the stories shared by the participants who are women with disability who have been subjected to violence and women who have acquired their disability caused by violence.
Silent Tears is representative of violence against women globally and ensures that the lived-experiences and voices of women with disability who experience violence are included in conversations relating to violence perpetrated against all women. In doing so, Silent Tears adheres to the United Nations (UN) definition of violence against women, as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life (UN, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 1993, p.1)
Narratives are an important part of commencing the healing process and are a major component of policies designed to increase the prevention of violence against women and girls with disability. Silent Tears provides a platform to share the women’s narratives to empower and strengthen. This validates their experiences and enables them to reach out to the wider community in order to shift perceptions and raise awareness of the issue of violence against women with disability. The participants of Silent Tears are illustrative of the broadness of what constitutes disability, the broadness of what constitutes violence as their experiences demonstrate the intersections of culture, gender and identity.
The participants have collaborated as protagonists with the three artists, creating works based on the stories of women with disability whose experiences include: psychological, physical, emotional, economic, and cultural violence. They have shared their stories that include: domestic violence, forced sterilisation, psychological trauma, female genital mutilation, and neglect and sexual abuse within institutions or by family members. Audiences can expect to experience a deeper understanding of the diversity of violence, discrimination and survival.
Silent Tears presents an opportunity for women with disability to voice their experience of violence in an unquestioned way. This unquestioning approach is unique, as often, the onus is on victims to provide evidence of their experience in order to obtain the various forms of support, which can be a barrier to actually obtaining support.