Saskia Suominen, our Arts Management student curated the exhibition of Meeri Koutaniemi, an artist from Finland in Faur Zsófi Gallery.
Was it difficult to bring Meeri Koutaniemi, an artist from Finland, to exhibit in Hungary?
Not at all, as the artist aims to raise awareness on humanitarian issues around the world. Meeri Koutaniemi (b.1987) is a Finnish freelance photographer currently based in Helsinki, Finland. Koutaniemi’s photographic work focuses on her interest in political and social phenomena concerning human rights and questions of identity. Koutaniemi is represented by the Italian photo agency Echo and is part of the Finnish collective of photographers Yksitoista.
How did you get in contact with Faur Zsófi Gallery?
After choosing Faur Zsófi Gallery as the ideal venue for the exhibition, Zsolt Petrányi, head of the Art Management Program, helped me to organize a meeting with Zsófi Faur. Zsolt is my final project supervisor so he has helped me tremendously during the process, for which I am very thankful for. Délia Vékony and Pál Tóth have also helped me along the way.
The topic of the exhibition is rather difficult. Why do you think that this topic is important for everyone today?
Female genital mutilation may not be a problem in Hungary but it is a worldwide issue and an extreme form of discrimination against women. More than 135 million women around the world have been mutilated and over 30 million girls are at risk if the trend persists. As the artist herself stated: "Female genital mutilation touches everyone who has a wife, a girlfriend, a daughter or a sister. In fact, it touches us all, as we all have a mother". We should all take part to end the tradition.
On the exhibition
Taken presents Koutaniemi’s latest work in the frame of her ongoing long term project about female genital mutilation. The exhibition presents a photo essay of the traditional cutting of Isina and Nasirian, two teenage girls from a Kenyan Maasai tribe. Even though Kenya has banned female genital mutilation by law, some tribes still practice the tradition and consider it as an honourable maturation ritual of young girls. The tradition stems from the belief that women’s sexual organs are impure and that the cutting prevents unwanted sexual behaviour, encouraging to premarital virginity and martial fidelity. Over 135 million women around the world have gone through the same procedure that is widely judged as a severe violation of women’s sexual independence and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. Female genital mutilation still takes place in over 29 countries worldwide and over 30 million girls are at risk if current trend persists.
“I want to understand the sexuality of women and with combining photography and research, create a confluence between the control over women’s sexuality and the overall social status of women. My goal is to offer a diverse spectrum of knowledge on female genital mutilation and stories of women’s fight for their rights. Female genital mutilation touches everyone who has a wife, a girlfriend, a daughter or a sister. In fact, it touches us all, as we all have a mother. The topic has required years of research, devotion and thorough work on the field. My works don’t aim to give answers, but give the freedom to think and comprehend – to raise questions, what could be done together to stop this violence from the next generations.”
Taken has won the international Visa d’or - Daily Press Award 2014 in France and the Freelens Award at the Lumix Foto Festival in Germany. The project aims for a publication dedicated to the daily struggles of women, survivors, who have under gone the procedure as well the extensive work of the activists fighting to end the tradition.
The exhibition is realized in cooperation with UNICEF Hungary, International Business School Budapest, the Finnish centre for culture, science and economy Finnagora, BOCK vineyard and Keretbolt.hu.