Explanation of the image…
I chose this photograph because it represents taking on a new flesh and becoming a survivor, representing strength and perseverance amidst oppression and/or objectification. The very word survivor is transformative, shifting the identity of a character from a victim, a person who has been stripped of his or her humanity through an abuse of power, to that of someone stronger and more alive. Because of their courage and endurance, survivors become more alive human than ever before. Their resistance has created for them a legacy, a story of their own that cannot be buried and forgotten.
Performing stories can be liberating both on an individual level as well as on a communal one. A story delivered in the likeness of a performance resembles a play in that it is comprised of a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning explains the way in which the story began, the middle discloses the death, imprisonment, loss, or trauma experienced, and the end illustrates a feeling of closure through an explanation of how the individual survived. It is this ending that brings a purpose and plants a legacy of the lives damaged or lost to injustice.
In Performing Democracy in Iraq and South Africa, after Monwa tells his audience of the brutal torture he faced, “There was a change in the narrative, in terms of length, performance manner, and stage presence, as he made his concluding statement, ‘Now I am married and have a son. And I am free’” (Segall 132). Monwa added “a final song of resistance at the end” (132). Stories don’t just end with torture or death. That is only the middle section of a play, the injustice that the protagonist must somehow overcome. But there is hope in the ending. The legacy that rises up from the ashes of torture, up from the skeletons of justice, can prove more potent and more powerful than any force of corruption or oppression.
A few significant individuals who resist injustice are to be feared much more than those who inflict it. When this independent liberation spreads, it forms resistant communities. After the stories are performed, “Unlike the individual ‘I’ of testimony, the creative construction of ‘we’ had an envisioned commonality” (Segall 133). Individual survivors grow stronger through communion with one another and the significance of their resistance evolves into a powerful fellowship and influential movement.
All who are oppressed by fear must cling to a hope in order to survive; it is a hope in a powerful legacy, a greater purpose, a more noble generation, a better future to come. Legacies remain in the hands of the last man standing. Throughout history, he who conquers is he who lives to tell the tale and may then present it in whichever way he so desires. There is a history, behind every performance. The preservation of these stories are perhaps the most significant reason for survival, that the years of horror and agony will not be veiled by he who may temporarily conquer. How can a meaningful legacy be left if the true story is forgotten?