On the second floor of Autograph ABP is a room filled with pain: female pain – something that photographer Aida Silvestri thinks we should all be paying much more attention to. The ‘Unsterile Clinic’ project sees Silvestri interview and photograph women in London who are among the 125 million living globally with the effects of female genital mutilation.
Silvestri captures the women in silhouette to protect their identity, and each photograph is overlaid with a hand-crafted vagina constructed out of leather. As you move around the room, the anatomy is trimmed, cut and, finally, incomprehensibly, stitched up, reflecting the various types of FGM inflicted upon these women.
The images are accompanied by poems conveying, in their own words, the moment girls as young as four were pinned down by mothers and grandmothers, to be cut with razors; the difficulties with sex, urination, infection and pregnancy; and the mental anguish that inevitably followed.
These artworks are not graphic in the blood-and-gore sense, but the simplicity of those absent folds of leather and stitches stabbed through fabric provides just as powerful an insight into the suffering of these girls.
The idea is not just to raise awareness of this harrowing practice but to empower women with the knowledge to seek help and the confidence to speak out. If this exhibition doesn’t give you goosebumps or bring you to tears, there’s got to be something seriously wrong.