Developing Critical Visual Analysis Skills: First Steps Towards Changing A Victim-based Mentality

Nadia’s Notes from the Field

In Goma, unfortunately much of the imagery of women
and girls in Goma is dominated by a victim-based mentality, highlighting the
fragility as opposed to the strength of the Congolese woman in the face of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV).

Over the past few months, we have realized
that an important role for our Courage in Congo project is to facilitate a
change in this this victim-based mentality through the public art imagery that
we develop with the girls; we want to show the strength, beauty, and courage of
the women living in this part of the world – not the opposite. Highlighting
these assets is an important part of what we aim to do here.

With these values at the forefront, we have
been working with the girls to develop skills that they can use to critically
analyze the imagery of women that surrounds them in Goma. We want to push
them to reflect about any discrepancies between this existing imagery and the ways in which they would choose to visually represent themselves.

We set-up an interactive
exhibition in the classroom to encourage this kind of thinking and critical visual analysis. On the classroom walls, we
displayed photographs of selected images of women that we found in Goma over
the past few months, including those found on billboard advertisements, wall paintings, NGO signage, etc. The girls circulated in groups of three, looking at the images and discussing
together what they represent to them.

In our follow-up discussion we asked
questions like: What do you see in this image? What qualities do you see in the woman in this image? What does this image tell you
about women in Goma? Do you feel like this image accurately represents you? Is
anything missing from this imagery of women in Goma? How do you want to be visually represented as
a young Congolese woman in your community?

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