Breaking The Silence One Doll at a Time
The powerful dolls of Greek sculptor Ioanna Paraskeva speak for those women and girls who can’t. Through her ‘I am Not a Doll’ Project – the conceptual artist hopes to create a bridge between children and adults, allowing them to break down taboos about brutal topics – from domestic violence and rape, to sexual harassment and cyber abuse – that are shrouded in silence. Molly Herring speaks to the artist about her artistic vision and the impact it has had so far.
All over the planet, women are denied protection from violence, trafficking, abuse, and early and forced marriages. These issues are difficult to address, largely because they are painful to talk about. It is imperative that families educate their sons and daughters about women’s rights and gender equality, but it is painful to do this research, to see these images. Ioanna Paraskeva, a Greek sculptor and conceptual fine art creator, created an interactive art exhibit to help solve this problem.
Ms. Paraskeva launched the I am Not a Doll Project (@Iamnotadoll_project) on February 6th, 2021, World Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It took Ioanna two years to create the six doll-like sculptures. Each figure wears uniquely colored shoes and represents one of six major issues women still face: sexual harassment and rape (yellow), domestic violence (blue), forced and early marriage (orange), female genital mutilation (pink), trafficking (red), and cyber abuse (green).
Ioanna asks each visitor to choose a sculpture that resonates with them, step “into their coloured shoes,” and to give the figure a voice by writing something on a small blackboard. In order to speak for the art, guests have to engage in dialogue about the subject that their figure represents. This opens the door for the adults in their lives to address this issue openly.
“We are in a very difficult situation with the issues of all kinds of gender-based violence and irrational practices increasing. I decided to use the power of art to activate a very effective weapon that humanity has… our youth,” said Ioanna.
In the eyes of children, the sculptures are friendly and alternative looking, while to older people they may seem strange and intense, much like the events they address. ΅I made the sculptures to look like dolls,” said Ioanna, “They have funny legs. They are colorful and friendly.” They portray the issues in a way that makes it easier to broach brutal topics and have conversations about gender equality.
The I am Not a Doll project is meant to be a bridge between children and adults, allowing them to explore their own reactions and talk with each other, breaking down taboos about brutal topics that are normally accepted in silence. Ioanna believes that changing the norms by getting young people to think about these issues differently can spark real change in the coming generations.
The name of the project, I am Not a Doll, refers to the objectification of women. When interacting with the exhibit, women can proudly wear the hashtag #Iamnotadoll, while men use #sheisnotadoll. Though it addresses women’s issues, the exhibit is open to all, as it is equally important for young men and women to see and be aware of these horrific events.
“If we are to achieve gender equality, we must address [human rights] issues before they become the norm for children. I consider education and motivation for discussion to be key factors,” said Ioanna.
The project is on display at the Swedish embassy until the 31st of March. As Ioanna puts it, “as long as people want to participate, it will stay alive.” After this, the sculptures will change hands between participating private companies.