Women's Rights Advocate Judith Bruce on her Nuru Project print
What moves you about Espen Rasmussen’s print?
I’ve lived a lot in Middle Eastern and Muslim countries and one of the things I’ve always appreciated about their religion is that it’s low-tech. Not a lot stands between you and your god. It’s one reason Islam spread so rapidly. You only need to know which direction Mecca is and you have a direct relationship and you can confirm it ritually five times a day. It’s available to everyone. You don’t need a pontiff or a physical church. You just need a matt that sanctifies the space. I think it’s amazing that all over the world at a certain moment, people just stop and pray.
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Are you religious?
I think people have to have ways, over and over again, to make the day their own. Otherwise, they lose home base. There is so much meaningless temptation. I’m not talking about morally. There are just meaningless ways to use your time. Time is often wasted. And time is precious and people are precious, so religion for many is an anchor. It helps them honor, shape and structure time.
How do you honor time?
I have tea. I have a few prayers that I say. But it’s a real challenge.
Do you feel this photograph relates to your work on women’s issues?
The photograph speaks to the power of collective humanity. Each individual person has made a decision to be there, but they’re doing it with company. The fact that they’re praying with company has to be much more powerful for them. They’ve lost, but they can confirm what remains. There is unison.
I think a lot of what happens in western thinking is that people believe in the individual. I believe in the individual, but the individual is powerfully shaped by the collective. The Civil Rights movement and the core of the women’s and girl’s movement is to create a community among ourselves. What society does, when it wants to marginalize anyone, is it isolates them.
These people have been physically attacked, by the earth, but they’re not physically isolated. They have bonds that are completely theoretical. They’re praying to something they can’t see for a future they can’t know. They have a common construct that creates community out of them, despite the fact that large pieces of land and their loved ones and their homes are crushed under the shifts in the earth.
Judith Bruce has worked on women’s issues for 35 years at Pop Council, which conducts research and disseminates evidence to improve lives around the world. Judith has great hair, and a lot of it.