Turkish artist Vahit Tuna wanted to draw attention to the pervasive problem of violence against women. His installation is a grave reminder of the ills of patriarchy.
Domestic and sexual violence is an issue across the world. Patriarchy is deeply-rooted in many countries across the globe, and because of it, women everywhere are at risk of losing their lives due to domestic or sexual violence. In Turkey, around 440 women were murdered because of this in the year 2018. To honor their lives and trauma, Turkish artist Vahit Tuna decided to create a haunting memorial. By mounting 440 pairs of shoes to the facade of a building on a busy street in Istanbul, the capital of Turkey, he forced the public to acknowledge the atrocities inflicted upon women - right under their noses.
In an interview with Reuters, Tuna shared that he wished to make an impact through his artwork in order to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women. "We are standing in a street now and maybe people are faced with a work of art for the first time, an open and bleeding wound for the very first time," he said. "I believe this has an impact. I think this (installation) creates awareness and is something that influences people and makes them think." Furthermore, in Turkey, placing the shoes of someone who has just passed away outside the entrance of their home is an age-old tradition. Therefore, the artist also discusses the cultural nuances of the victims' tragic deaths.
The installation covers a total of 260 square meters and serves as a reminder about the systemic wrongs of patriarchy. And people are noticing. Turkish banker Serap Kilic shared, "Frankly, I do not feel safe on the streets and this view is really awful. There are 440 pairs of shoes here and it means that many lives have been lost in 2018. This is very upsetting." Hilal Koseoglu, another banker, added, "As long as everybody remains silent, violence against women will increase and this violence is not just about murdering women but also suppressing and silencing them." Tuna hopes his groundbreaking installation will help break the silence that plagues the issue of violence against women.
However, perhaps the artist spoke too soon. Recently, the Turkish government announced that it would introduce a "marry your rapist" bill in parliament. The bill will enable the men accused of sexual abuse to avoid punishment if they marry the survivor. Such legislation is only expected to increase the rates of violence against women. Several United Nations agencies have since come forward to condemn the bill, stating, "If adopted in its current form, the draft bill would weaken Turkey’s ability to combat sexual abuse and child marriage." Perhaps it is time for artist Tuna to erect similar installations near government buildings to remind lawmakers of the blood on their hands.