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Massumi's Obliteration breaks the conspiracy of silence surrounding the custom of Sunna, the Arabic word for "tradition". Sunna refers to an ancient practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), a procedure of removing the tip of the clitoris. Astonishingly, this form of control is still practiced in Muslim countries and performed by women during a ritualistic ceremony. Unlike the praised film Warrior Marks by Alice Walker, this video has no words and is not based on interviews. Yet, the silent images scream. In Ethiopia, where the video was shot, has today 25 million mutilated women.

The viewer is filled with rage and a dull somber color takes over the scenes, stirring emotion through the senses. A discourse of gender, Obliteration avoids a monolithic description of FGM practices revealing it instead through a series of visual iconic fragments such as a blade being sharpened, images that are stressed by the hypnotic sound of African drums. Without a firmly structured narrative, this piece transports the viewer right to the place where a girl's body and her sexuality are being remapped and permanently altered. Producing a mental and emotional distress in the viewer, Obliteration is an act of observing our lack of authority or power when confronting violence.

From the exhibition catalogue for Cosmopolitan History 
Curated by Berta M. Sichel
May 2000

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