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Agora Talk 30: Women in Proverbs - Irem Çoban (in English)

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Are all proverbs always wise? Discover some extravagant thoughts about women with Turkish illustrator, Irem Çoban.

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Artist: Irem Çoban

Project: Women in Proverbs

Digital Curator: Isil Celik

Wherever you are from and whichever language you speak, just think of a proverb that objectifies or disparages women. Most probably, you will come up with one, if not with many. The Digital Art exhibition Women in Proverbs provides a colourful criticism of the ways in which proverbs around the world depict women.

This year, Agora Digital Art’s artist in resident in September was İrem Çoban, a Turkish Digital Art artist and academic. Çoban’s art practice merges illustration, videography and cinema with a focus on gender studies. Through her work, Irem brings a critical visual narrative to the issues women face worldwide.

Proverbs can be seen as condensed moral guides to life. As a matter of fact, they communicate perceived truths and commonly shared values of the culture for which they speak. Despite being cultural, they lay claim to truth and make a random cultural idea sound like absolute wisdom. This way, proverbs don’t only mirror cultural values but also function as ideological tools that transmit and revitalise those values within and in-between generations.

It is not surprising that patriarchal cultures produce proverbs that devalue, objectify, and demonise women. For identity is plastic and it is socially constructed in connection with cultural values, in patriarchal societies, those proverbs ensure that women are perceived as naturally degraded or villains. By teaching how to see women, they help to construct woman-identity as such. As a result, they play a historical role in the persecution of women’s existence through witch-hunts, insane asylums, child marriages, infanticides and so on.


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