The SEMA’s portrait exhibition at the Rotterdam Central Library opened on October 2nd and will last until November 12th, 2023.
The exhibition is a compelling and eye-opening display organised by the Mukwege Foundation and featuring the work of documentary photographer Rachel Corner. Its primary focus is to shed light on the struggles, diversity, and resilience of SEMA members. The exhibition aims to provide a platform for survivors to break the silence surrounding the violence they’ve endured and share their journey towards empowerment.
The featured photographs by Rachel Corner capture powerful portraits of these survivors, which were taken during a SEMA retreat where members had the opportunity to reconnect, strengthen their network, and share their experiences and successes. These portraits convey the strength and determination of survivors who are eager to share their stories with the world and break the cycle of silence and stigma that often surrounds their experiences.
In addition to the photographs, visitors have the opportunity and stories of the survivors. This adds a deeper, more personal dimension to the exhibition, allowing visitors to better understand the experiences of these survivors, the profound effects of the crimes they’ve endured on their lives, and their inspiring journeys towards becoming activists. This exhibition seeks to raise awareness, promote understanding, and provide a voice to those who have suffered from wartime sexual violence. Visitors also have the chance to obtain a softcopy of the “Breaking the Silence” book, further expanding their knowledge and awareness of the issues addressed in the exhibition.
Katrien Coppens, the Executive Director of the Mukwege Foundation, delivered an enlightening lecture on the remarkable power of women on November 7, 2023 (in Dutch). In this thought-provoking presentation, attendees had the opportunity to explore the stories of resilient women who faced the devastating reality of conflict-related sexual violence and chose to stand up for justice.
Sexual violence, as revealed in the lecture, was far from arbitrary; it was a deliberate and distressing tactic employed by armed groups worldwide. Katrien Coppens’ presentation covered essential topics, including the causes and consequences of wartime sexual violence, the impactful work of the Mukwege Foundation, and the activism of the SEMA Network.
The lecture provided valuable insights into the profound power of women, their resilience, and their commitment to fighting for justice. It highlighted the significance of their stories and the critical work of organisations like the Mukwege Foundation and the SEMA Network in bringing about positive change. The lecture also included a pre-recorded statement from SEMA Founding Members, offering a poignant perspective on “Breaking the Silence.”