‘They put them on High Horses and they stayed there.
“Don’t whistle, don’t sing!
Do not dance, do not shine,
Do not be heard, do not be seen,
No rhythm, no rhyme.
Be quiet, be still,
You shall not be!”
She obeyed every word and disappeared. She looks at her mother, the woman that has never been: “Shall I be like you, mama?”
Her mother said without a smile: “Indeed you shall. As all women should be.”
“But Mama, you do not exist!”
“Neither shall you for this is what is preserved for us. What greater honor is there for a woman than to be married and have children?”
“But that is in his name! What about my name?”
“Shhh my child, remove that sinful thought from your head and never talk about it again!” Her mother’s whispers were like thunder.’
This is a transcript of a conversation between a mother and daughter that the artist (Peju Alatise) overheard whilst she was working at Ibrahim pasa during an artist residency. The conversation was prompted by the appearance of Alatise’s signature on her paintings.
The above conversation and footnote was published on Bonhams. Peju captures the way women are expected to exist in the society especially in Africa. Do not be heard, do not be seen. Do not have an opinion. You only exist for a man to plunder. Women have been subdued and broken by patriarchy. Silenced into oblivion. She lives in a glass box, slowly suffocating till she dies.
But, there is hope for ‘womanity’. The younger generations are asking questions. They are speaking out loud, they want to be heard. They will be heard. They are shattering the glasses and breaking the rules. They will not suffocate.
She – woman – will not remain a show object on high horses.
Peju Alatise’s High Horses (triptych) is on auction this October at Bonhams Contemporary African Art auction. The estimated selling price is between US$39,000 – US$47,000.