Mali – Woman Power, 2005
Mali, West Africa
The deep first-hand impression that the image of the woman in Mali made on me served as the inspiration for this series of photographs.
In my works I have set up the image of the woman as a myth. This image is emphasized by a strong and colorful presence superimposed on a monochrome background of local scenery.
The women of Mali are the economic foundation of the family: they constitute the chief labour force. The woman is the covert power behind the man who privately seeks her advice on everything while publicly proclaiming her views as his own.
The family structure is patriarchal and several generations dwell together under the rule of the male head of the family. It is the women who work in the field, draw water from the well, pound the millet, carry the grain to the mill, bake the bread, dry and smoke the fish, do basketwork, fashion vessels out of clay and gourds, weave, sew and perform many other tasks. The markets, too, are called the ‘women’s markets’ because they are the ones who do all the selling and buying – with their babies strapped onto their backs all the while.
Women in Mali society have no official standing or rights – the woman and her children are the property of the man.
The image of the woman I present is that of a strong and dominant person of power and determination yet at the same time also one of grace and elegance – a combination that creates an impressive aura of femininity in tune with The Feminine Mystique.
The voice of the women of Mali resounds loud and clear. It is fully apparent that they are very well aware of their own worth.
Varda Carmeli, 2005