by: Pearl P Mashabane
In the comfort of a quiet Sunday evening, I follow Anthony Bourdain’s series on CNN called Parts Unknown. It is a series that captures his travels to locations seldom seen or visited. He takes the audience on journeys capturing amazing scenery, art and cuisine that would be the envy of any adventurous traveler.
One of his journeys ventures off to Libya to explore life after the revolution. I’m glued to the screen, grateful that the camera lens will take me where I cannot go. I’m curious about the state of Libya and how life is panning out for the ordinary people after their revolution that held the world captive two years ago. I want to see and hear if the people of Libya got the freedom they so much yearned and fought for.
As the camera lens pans the high ways and byways of Libya from Benghazi to Tripoli, it begins to dawn on me that the story of Libya post revolution is being narrated through three dominant voices: the graffiti alongside the roads, the militias refusing to lay their weapons down and through the voices and lives of Libyan men.
All around the city, the walls shout with bold graffitti: Libya is Free!
Revolution time militias who will not lay their weapons downs chant: Freedom!
The exuberant men serving fresh fish in the market place proclaim: We are Free!
Libya is “Free” yet something about this freedom speaks of a half cooked meal and I start a mental conversation with Bourdain. My first question to him is: Where are the Libyan women in this Libya is free narrative?
The last time we saw women in large numbers was during the heat of the revolution when they joined forces and voices with men and collectively they broke the chains that imprisoned their lives. Today as I watch this documentary, the women are invisible. It seem odd and incongruent with the compelling images of energetic, determined and courageous masses of women we all witnessed at the forefront of the revolution, willing to sacrifice their lives for their country’s freedom.
I begin to wonder if Bourdain’s camera lens failed to capture them. If the microphone refused to record their voices, If they are too busy with household chores, If they are not allowed to be on TV…If…they were swallowed by the revolution. They seem to have just vanished off from the public life.
Have the Libya women found freedom too? How does their freedom look and sound like?
It is in the midst of these questions that Bourdain follows a group of merry young men to the beach where they slaughter a sheep and prepare a barbeque that we meet a young Libyan woman. She stands on the beach, a few “cultural” feet away from the men. My eyes light up when she is acknowledged and made visible through the camera lens. Bourdain asks her about her life after the revolution.
She is a medical student who returned to her country during the war to nurse the wounds of the wounded. However even more poignant, she adds that now that the war is over they are turning to nurse the invisible wounds of the war. She hints of the Parts were are not Told and The Parts we cannot See. The reality of a continuing war.
The graffiti on the walls, the men in the streets and the gun-totting militias all speak about freedom. Freedom for Libyan women remains the Parts Untold.
Did the Libyan revolution give birth to freedom for all?
“No nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men”
― Muhammad Ali Jinnah
God bless Africa!