Grace Akallo was only 15 years old when she was abducted from her school by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and forced into a life as a child soldier. As part of the initiation into the army, Akallo was raped, tortured and forced to kill. After being held by the LRA for seven months, unsure if she would be killed, Akallo escaped.
In sculptor Ann Weiner’s latest exhibit When Caged Birds Sing, a life-sized sculpture of Grace Akallo appears with a skull at her feet and an AK47 rifle attached to her body. The sculpture, which debuted at Housatonic’s Museum of Art last week, is one part of eight pieces of art, each representing a woman who suffered, often horrifically, because of their gender.
“I created (When Caged Birds Sing) to follow a line of artists active in honoring the lives of heroic women working on behalf of human rights.” Weiner said.
Part of Weiner’s criteria for selection of the eight heroines was to find extraordinary examples of women facing adversity.
“I knew that I had to identify women who were abused because of their gender,” Weiner said. “But also, the women had to show resilience to get back up and rise again. Third, I wanted to show that these women devoted their time and interests to helping other women still at risk.”
The exhibit chronicles domestic abuse, sex trafficking, rape, honor killings, denial of educational opportunities, female genital mutilation, transphobia and child brides across the globe. Each sculpture utilizes the technique of assemblage art accompanied by written text, audio description and film.
“If nothing else their stories tell us there’s nothing too big that you can’t overcome.” Weiner said. “What makes a person capable of resilience and how can we nurture that? It’s these women who inspire not just me but also future generations.”
When Caged Birds Sing runs through Feb 10.
A panel entitled “Human Rights: Out of the Shadows”, hosted by activist Fatima Sabri, will be held Feb 8 at 2 p.m. in the museum. For more information, visit Housatonic.edu/artmuseum