The violence that goes unnoticed…
Slow violence, in Nixon’s conception, is “a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, a violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.” (Nixon 2011:2) Slow Violence is not what we expect violence to be namely explosive and immediately visible, it is rather something that goes by unnoticed and tends to happen gradually. This is what makes slow violence a silent killer. We do not realise that a simple action like not throwing our empty soda bottle in a garbage bin can have a devastating effect on the environment. These type of thing may seem insignificant and annoying at this moment, but it has an effect and this will lead to problems in the future with major consequences we will have to pay (Nixon 2011:2).Humanity tends to only respond towards violence they can see and thus to due to slow violence’s invisible nature we do not acknowledge it or become aware of it (Nixon 2011:14).
Nixon (2011:3) argues that a major problem in raising awareness of slow violence is how slow violence is represented. We need to “devise arresting stories, images, and symbols adequate to the pervasive but elusive violence of delayed effects” (Nixon 2011:3). Thus the challenge of slow violence is how to adequately represent it so that it may be investigated, opposed, and redressed.
By using a photo essay about an environmental concern that relates to slow violence through the form of a photo essay, in which four photographs are used to represent an environmental concern of slow violence, the consequences and effects of slow violence is represented and discussed. The aim is to create awareness of this problem and humanity’s complicated relationship with Mother Nature.
A picture is worth a thousand words…and it is a case of life and death
The first image is of lovely flowers I saw next to the road on my way to Bloemfontein. They brighten up the area and grow naturally without human interference. While the second image is a picture I took in Johannesburg. The area in front of the mural is covered in trash -our trash, our human interference. I want to use the symbol of flowers and reverse the way they grow. The trash is the flowers that we humans plant. Which one is the prettier version? What is the effect of each ‘flower’ on our earth?
The first flower attracts insects and birds. The insects and birds use the pollen from the flower and use it as food. They spread the pollen and more flowers grow because of this. This flower gives life and is a crucial part of the ecosystem that has been created in the veld.
The second “flower” is what we humans no longer need. We throw it on the ground. Unfortunately this “flower” also attracts insects and birds. While some organisms like flies and rats are attracted to this type of “flower”, they carry diseases that are dangerous to us. This “flower” does not give life to animals like the previous one, in fact it suffocates birds. This only system present in this environment is one of death, death to birds, death to soil and even in extreme cases death to humans. The face on the mural looks sad as it watching over the trash, this is what we are doing to Mother Nature, we are breaking her heart as she watches us destroy.
This is an image I took of a butterfly in the Pilansberg National Park. This insect is part of the ecosystem mentioned above. It spreads pollen from the plants to pollenate other plants to make them grow and used some of the pollen as food. It is a delicate balance, but life gives life.
This image was one I took at the Union Buildings at Pretoria. It reminded me of the butterfly image- a white object on a plant. Only this is not a living thing, but a plastic bag filled with trash. This bag will eventually kill the tree, opposite to the butterfly that spreads life. The plastic will prevent the tree from getting the sun it needs and birds and insects using the tree will also suffocate. Trees give us oxygen we need to survive. What will happen when we have no more trees? We will suffocate to!
This last image was taken at the Voortrekker Monument. In my mind this image is a symbol of what will happen in the future if we continue the way we do. We might as well be putting flowers on the grave of Mother Nature. The flowers that give life are dead and are presented to the dead. This is ironic.
I want to end with a quote from Nadine Gordimer, as Rob Nixon mentioned her as an activist in his book, “I’m asking you, it happens to interest me, is to kill the only sin we recognize?” We are killing what gives us life! We are spreading the seed of the death flower, also known as trash.
Nixon, R. 2011. Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Mark, Y. 2014.The Wit and Wisdom of Nadine Gordimer: The Quotable Gordimer; or, The Wit and Wisdom of Nadine Gordimer. University of Mississippi Press
Jordan, C. 2009. Midway: Message from the Gyre. [Online]. Accessed from http://www.chrisjordan.com/ [Accessed on 23 April 2016]