Gender-Based Violence Harms Us All

Death is the ultimate destination. The Shavasana position in yoga prepares you for it, lying flat on your back, arms resting slightly away from your body. I’ve made many drawings of bodies stretched out on their backs, including some afloat in water. They point to the deep suffering that engulfs the lives of those who exist in the margins and intersections of society, beyond the interests of the powers that be. I have also worked for years with images of women’s bodies, demonstrating the damage done to them by the social, cultural and environmental crises we frequently face around the world.

“Shavasana II” is a reminder of the fragility and unpredictability of violent death, and how it affects us all. It was conceived after I read about the murder of Nia Wilson, a black woman, on July 22, 2018, in Oakland, California. The brutality of that moment was compounded this year, when I read about theat least 21 publicly recorded</a> murders of transgender or gender nonconforming people in 2019, of whom all but one were people of color. It is clear to me that such brazen violence is a sign of a deepening and frightening loss of our collective humanity and compassion. Yet we must remember that although most such incidents will not be reported or mourned publicly, we will all eventually find ourselves there, under that same woven mat, in Shavasana.

© 2019 Wangechi Mutu. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

Multidisciplinary artist based between New York and Nairobi. Most recently, her work has appeared in the 2019 Whitney Biennial and this past September, she unveiled a series of site-specific sculptures at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.