In Lynn Nottage's powerful 2009 Pulitzer Prize winning play, we meet a group of women in war torn Conga who are trying to survive after being Ruined - that is, raped and genitally mutilated. Ms. Nottage's play is based on first hand accounts heard during her 2004 trip to Congo; therefore what we see and read probably occurred. In the film Desert Flower (a somewhat more uplifting survival story), we meet real life Waris Dirie, who was circumcised at age 3 and sold into marriage at 13; Waris Dirie would later make her way to the UK and become a model, writer and activist.
I was reminded once again of the destructive practice of female genital mutilation or FGM during one of the opening pieces in last weekend's Nimbaya! performance at Symphony Space. Nimbaya! is an all female percussion, singing and African dancing group from Guinea. The group is comprised of some 40 woman; however, only 13 were able to secure visas to visit the US for the current tour. 150 women are on a waiting list to join the group.
Through their art, Nimbaya! has chosen to bring attention to FGM with the hopes of eradicating the tradition which supposedly (according to the talkback after the show) helps prevents girls from being "loose." In the evening's performance leaflet, a spokesperson for Nimbaya! writes that "FMG has no known health benefits," "it's about controlling women" and "3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedures every year."
There seems to be a decline (though small) in the practice of FGM. Some countries have even banned the practice. However, the tradition remains firm. But then again, so are the resolve of FGM activists.