Marwa Arsanios

Who Is Afraid of Ideology?


29 April - 23 July 2022


Blenheim Walk Gallery

Visiting hours

10:00am-4:00pm Monday to Saturday

Preview: 28 April 2022 5:00pm-7:00pm

Location: Leeds Arts University, Blenheim Walk, Leeds LS2 9AQ

The exhibition Who Is Afraid of Ideology? brings together Marwa Arsanios’ complete film quadrilogy alongside a tapestry piece. Her work results from a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to research and filmmaking that involves engagement with eco-feminist communities in conflict zones and archival materials.

Arsanios confronts long-established political and socioeconomic systems of oppression and exploitation by portraying alternative ways of living in harmony with nature. Women’s lived experiences and anti-colonial struggles marked by collectivism, care and self-defence become an example for wider social and political change.

In Part 1 & 2 of Who Is Afraid of Ideology?, Arsanios addresses forms of self-governance and knowledge production that have emerged from the Kurdish autonomous women’s movement. For the guerrilla movement, gender liberation, ecology and direct democracy, are the pillars of democratic autonomy in an active militant struggle against ultra-patriarchal groups. Initially in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan and then the women-only commune in Jinwar, a village for women and children in Rojava, northeastern Syria, the work explores the possibilities of a political praxis based on an existence close to nature and within armed struggle. Constructed on the principle of self-sustainability, Jinwar aims to provide women refuge away from their oppressive patriarchal communities and host those who lost their husbands in the war. And finally, in a cooperative in the Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border, which has become a sanctuary community for refugees.

Part 3 - Micro Resistencias, takes place in Tolima, Colombia, and focuses on the current systemic war led by transnational corporations against the tiniest and most essential aspect of life: seeds. The film connects the stories of women’s struggle to preserve the ancestral knowledge of Indigenous communities regarding the cultivation and protection of seeds. Despite facing forced displacements, exploitation, violence and murder, Indigenous women achieve a form of agricultural autonomy.

The last film in this quadrilogy, Part 4 - A Letter Inside a Letter, examines the issues of inheritance, ownership, property and value through questioning the neoliberal politics of visibility and invisibility. To pursue this, Arsanios focusses on a specific area of land in northern Lebanon: her family’s olive grove that is now farmed by a family of Syrian refugees.

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