Visible Absence, Invisible Presence
+July 20, 2020
The female familial bond is of a spiritual and primordial quality, signified largely by their shared femaleness. Old and wise women have always exchanged with daughters, granddaughters and nieces, a knowledge that is subliminal, subversive, preverbial. This is the knowledge flowing between two alike bodies. This bond seems to be both spiritual and biological, tied in as they are to each other, through the experience of birth and death, and through their physical attributes.
Some branches continue, some dry out, the traces left behind. This is how we float, like a delta. My grandmother was 100 years old when she died, shortly thereafter my child was born. The feeling that death was replaced with life and the course of generations became apparent.
Hannah Modigh (@hannahmodigh), one of the leading photographers in Sweden, has recently published a project on birth, death, and what’s in between: time. Incredibly intimate, but still universal, Delta also touches on the topic of sexuality and the intimate relationship that binds women from the same family nest.
"Looking for everyday situations and objects that depict the presence of an absence,” Hannah states. She could give shape to rituals and inherited traditions, those taught her by her grandmother, which were the same that her child was about to be fed with. The mysterious yet visible absence of the old woman is here beneath the image's surface, most likely to fade, if it wasn’t for Hannah’s ability to depict the tension ready to become volatile and disappear after her grandmother died.
It’s not commonly thought of women to be key players in family dynamics, visible only when it comes to practical matters related to children’s needs. However, every person was born into subtle and invisible dependencies: culture, society, nation, parents and family. Not to mention, birth entails a strong relationship between mother and child. The psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva accounts for the narcissism of the mother, who becomes dependent on the newborn child for her sense of self.
When present, a woman is herself invisible, very often taken for granted. When absent, she becomes visible through every little past teaching transmitted. Distant from being defined just infinitely forgiving, sacrificing, and altruistic, she stands out as a flow of energy passing through another female body of the same kind. Femaleness is not easy to be felt in the patriarchal society that still undermines our lives. There is a need to keep the line of women alive, strengthening familial bonds at first. The female familial bond is indeed essential for a young woman to develop her sense of self, both psychological and bodily. Even if women from different generations and with different ideas of femininity, differences and similarities have to be surpassed because of the shared experiences laying behind femaleness, such as menstruation and pregnancy, harassments and civil rights to fight for, which sometimes seem not to have changed after all this time. What happens when the young woman becomes an adult, is that she remains solid in her beliefs, transmitted by the grandmother, able to raise her child in the light of life replacing death.