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February 18, 2013

Protest Headwear: From Pussy Riot to Palestine

Pussy Riot knitting protest.jpeg

… Call it a political response to news galleries filled with Fashion Week.

As one of our main themes at Bag is the evolution of protest, I was wondering about your take on these photos.  I was thinking about what an odd mash up this first picture was of, say, Occupy and Anonymous. I was also wondering, since this protest is directly in support of the woman’s activist band, Pussy Riot, how a gendered activity such as a knit-in would transfer to “domestic protests” over domestic violence or reproductive rights — especially with the masks. Of course, it’s the headdress that makes the photo, and the merger of a home made knit cap and a terror mask. Perhaps it was spawned out of a practical need to protect one’s identity, but either way, it’s a stroke of street theater genius.

And then, variations on a political performance theme … and with the Picture of the Year projects just being announcements, I couldn’t help including these photos from the POY winning series by Israeli photographer Oded Balilty. The pictures were taken in Bilin in the West Bank. If we’re talking “compare and contrast,” perhaps here’s your corollary to the shot above, this Palestinian youth also knit to be untied.

Stone Throwers of Palestine knit mask

If, on the other hand, we’re looking for contrast, I’m been fixated (as opposed to asphyxiated) by this:

Palestinian Stone Throwers plastic bag

It’s not that I haven’t seen many newswire shots by now of protesters with plastic bags over their heads to ward off the effects of tear gas. It’s just that I haven’t seen it done in a studio-like setting to emphasize one’s people are being strangled. Along those lines, it’s not far off from the knitters subverting the pure utility of their headwear.

(photo 1: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP. caption: Amnesty International members knit Pussy Riot fan scarves to support the members of the Russian punk band, in Brussels on Sunday Feb. 17, 2013. Three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years imprisonment for performing a protest song in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Although Ekaterina Samutsevich was conditionally released on appeal on 10 October, her two band mates, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova remain in prison. photo 2 & 3: Oded Balilty – “STONE THROWERS.” caption 2: In this Monday, June 11, 2012 photo, a Palestinian stone thrower masked in a balaclava printed with the Palestinian flag and Arabic script which translates to English as “popular resistance”, poses for a portrait in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah. caption 3: In this Monday, June 11, 2012 photo, a Palestinian stone thrower poses for a portrait as he covers his face with a plastic bag which is meant to protect him from tear gas during protests, in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah.)

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