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International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

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Netherlands, The Hague, 18-06-2024. Art Installation "Thinking of You" by artist Alketa Xhafa Mripa, The Hague 2024. Photo: Andreas Terlaak, courtesy of the Artist.

By Roy Lie Atjam

You could not have missed it, for days the atrium of the city hall and the Langevoorhout square were draped in dozens of dresses, skirts, slacks, blouses, all female outfits and it made you wonder what it was all about.

On 19 June 2024, The Embassy of Kosovo commemorated the 10th  International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, which is 19 June, and co-organised the official opening of an art installation in the city hall of The Hague and inaugurated the art exhibition. The theme of the  exhibition is ‘Thinking of You’.

H.E. Dr. Dren Doli, Ambassador of Kosovo.

The “Thinking of You” art installation is a collaborative project by conceptual artist Alketa Xhafa Mripa, the Embassy of Kosovo in the Netherlands, the City of The Hague, and the Dr Denis Mukwege Foundation.

The installation is dedicated to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. Originally created in Kosovo in 2015, the exhibition came to The Hague in 2024, a city known for peace and justice.

During the opening event, the Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo, H.E.  Dr. Dren Doli, hosted as the Master of Ceremony, while Ms. Mariëlle Vavier, Deputy Mayor of The Hague, delivered the opening remarks. Vavier highlighted the international significance of the exhibition and expressed hope that it would raise awareness about the care needed for survivors of sexual violence and the efforts to bring perpetrators to justice.

ArtistMs Alketa Xhafa Mripa explained the concept and impact of the art exhibition, which features dresses donated from around the world and serves as a platform for survivors. Alketa Xhafa Mripa drew inspiration from her experiences growing up in Kosova during a time of oppression and war, which influenced her work as an artist.

Exhibition Thinking of You, Municipality of The Hague.

The importance of making the victim’s experiences heard and encouraging others was articulated by the founder of Panzi Hospital and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr Dennis Mukwege. Alketa Xhafa Mripa, stated that her art is motivated by a need to visualize what words cannot express, which led to the creation of “Thinking of You,” an art installation dedicated to survivors of sexual violence in conflict. The installation aims to break the silence and stigma around this issue, and collaboration and community involvement are essential to her work.

Ms. Shyrete Tahiri-Sulimani and Ms. Jacqueline Mutere, activists and members of the SEMA Network, shared their experiences. Thinking of You – Municipality of The Hague.

The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora of Kosovo, Ms. Lisa Gashi, delivered a compelling speech highlighting the necessity to take considerable action to strengthen the decision-making process and accountability of international institutions concerning the topic.

Ambassador Doli welcomed the touching and powerful testimonies of survivors of violence perpetrated in conflict to the stage. Ms. Vasfije Krasniqi Goodman, Presidential Special Envoy of Kosovo on Sexual Violence During War, along with Ms. Shyrete Tahiri-Sulimani and Ms. Jacqueline Mutere, activists and members of the SEMA Network, shared their experiences.

Netherlands, The Hague, 17-06-2024. Art Installation “Thinking of You” by artist Alketa Xhafa Mripa, The Hague 2024. Photo: Andreas Terlaak, courtesy of the Artist.

These women broke their silence for the first time in their country and emphasized the importance of fighting the stigma against victims of sexual violence in conflict while recounting their history as survivors of war rape.

Mr Derrek Hof, Director of the Social Affairs Department at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held a speech on behalf of Dutch governmental institutions, showing their support to the cause.

The dignified gathering was attended by several Ambassadors, among them the Ambassador of Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Costa Rica, Japan, Greece, Macedonia, and the Apostolic Nuntius, representatives from Dutch governmental institutions, and international organizations, as well as human rights supporters.

“Thinking of You” has had a great impact nationally and internationally, with foreign newspapers reporting on the exhibition. The prestigious British newspaper, The Guardian, even chose a photo of the ‘Thinking of You’ exhibition as its photo to accompany its report on the 19th June commemoration.

One person involved in the coordination said, “It’s been challenging, but I’ve learned a lot. I’ll never forget the strength of the CRSV survivors I talked to.”

Netherlands, The Hague, 17-06-2024. Art Installation “Thinking of You” by artist Alketa Xhafa Mripa, The Hague 2024. Photo: Andreas Terlaak, courtesy of the Artist.

After the official opening reception at the atrium, attendees were invited to take a stroll to the Langevoorhout to view the outdoor part of the exhibition.

In conclusion, displaying over 1,000 female outfits is a plea for justice. These outfits were donated by survivors and supporters and are hanging in the atrium of the city hall of The Hague Municipality and outdoors on the Langevoorhout in the center of the city. This exhibition demonstrates the power of art!

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