May 27, 2016

Norwegian artist conducts embroidery workshops for victims of violence, update on Juarez femicides

Workshop by artist Lise Bjorne Linnert in Juarez, Mexico,

 hosted by Foro de Dialogo Cultural Transfronterizo/FDCT.
[Photo courtesy of PDCT]
Norwegian artist conducts embroidery workshops for victims of violence

By Marisela Ortega Lozano

Special to The Digie Zone/May 27, 2016

JUAREZ, MEXICO -- Norwegian artist Lise Bjorne Linnert conducted a workshop Thursday in Juarez, as part of her worldwide Project Unknown, which focuses on missing girls and women.

Foro de Dialogo Cultural Transfronterizo (FDCT) sponsored the participatory event that involves the embroidery of name tags of victims that are then displayed as part of Bjorne's exhibit.

Bjorne said that in collaboration with Amnesty International she decided to come to the border after learning that women's murders continued to be an issue of concern in Juarez.

 "When I initiated the project in 2006 I did not plan for it to last for 10 years," Bjorne said. "I wanted people to become aware of the situation in Juarez, connect and engage in the cause of violence against women and diminish the distance we tend to feel towards such difficult issues. The continuing of the project grew from people´s engagement and the sad fact that little changes."

Bjorne is scheduled to serve on a panel that highlights her project today (May 27) at noon, at Cafe Mayapan in El Paso. The event is free and open to the public. Other panelists will discuss art as social protest and the current situation in Juarez.

Itzel Gonzalez, monitoring coordinator for the coalition Red Mesa de Mujeres de Ciudad Juarez (, said in an interview that violence against women in Juarez has not declined since the trend first became a subject of international interest.

She also said that after taking into account the drug cartel wars that killed unprecedented thousands of men and women in Juarez, generally between 2007 and 2013, the murders and disappearances of women are on the uptick once more.

"For example, in 2002, Juarez reported 38 women's murders," she said. "In 2015, during President Enrique Peña Nieto administration, Juarez had 45 women's murders - a greater number than in 2002."

"The year 2010, during Mexican President Felipe Calderon's administration," Gonzalez said, "was the most a lethal period for women in this border city with 304 women's murders, and with officials attributing the slayings to the 'war against drug-trafficking.' This implied that the victims died because they were involved in illegal activities. However, we have yet to receive responses from the special prosecutor's office to our requests for the official causes of death of these women."

A spokesman for the special prosecutor's office in Chihuahua state that investigates women's murders was not available for comment. Officials have noted that they continue to make arrests and hold trials for suspects accused of gender violence.

Marisela Ortiz, an activist who was granted U.S. asylum after receiving constant death threats related to her advocacy, will speak at today's panel at Cafe Mayapan.

"In the early years, 1993 to 1998, officials blamed the victims for what happened to them," Ortiz said. "They (officials) said things like, 'it happened to them for a reason,' 'it doesn't happen to decent women,' it's because of how they dress.'"

Lise Bjorne Linnert initiated Project Desconocida/Unknown/Ukjent in 2006 in response to the ongoing situation in Juarez, where more than 2,000 women have been mutilated and murdered over the last 24 years and hundreds have disappeared, according to project organizers.
By April 2016, 4,800 people, in 480 globally arranged workshops, had embroidered 7,900 labels. Each participant embroiders two name tags: one with the name of a murdered woman in Juarez; the other with unknown in their own language to memorize victims of similar crimes globally. 
Harald Gunnar Paalgard, a highly regarded filmmaker in Norway, is accompanying Bjorne during her visit to El Paso, Juarez and Mexico City.
Make plans
What: "Art as Social Protest" presentation and panel featuring Norwegian artist Lise Bjorne Linnert, and local guest panelists sponsored by Journalists for Justice.
When: Noon.
Where: Cafe Mayapan, 2000 Texas Avenue.
Information: Event is free and open to the public.