Mary Mihelic, Running Girls: Part 2

A series of 53 artworks about the Chibok kidnapped schoolgirls.

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Steal Home Running Girl

When Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon spoke out against the Boko Haram at a l church, he said, “We will not require people to come from heaven or other countries to solve our problems... “    This remark was followed by The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ayo Oristejafor, referencing scripture and stating, “Nigeria was a boat built by God that could never sink.”  This artwork destroys the word built as a metaphor for religion devastating the country.  The metaphor becomes even more relevant over time as more and more people flee Africa due to ISIS and the Boko Haram, attempting to cross the Mediterranean in inflatable rafts, overloaded fishing boats, and old rickety wooden boats. It’s been reported that Muslims onboard some boats have been throwing the Christians overboard.  Pope Francis recently described the Mediterranean as on the verge of becoming “a vast cemetery.”



In late September (2104), the Boko Haram finally let one of the school girls go.  The 20-year-old girl wandered in the bush for four days before she was found running through a village.  She was hospitalized and reunited with her family. The text art reads “hellp”.     It is a common practice in Nigeria for the government to arrest the loved ones of suspected criminals when they can’t find them. When the suspect reappears, the loved ones are released.  In early 2012, the Nigerian government rounded up and imprisoned the wives and children of Boko Haram commanders.  This event triggered their retaliation and the kidnappings of schoolgirls.  The Boko Haram waited six months for the release of their loved ones.  It didn’t happen.  So in September of 2012, Boko Haram commander Abubekar Shekau made a threat on YouTube stating, “...since you are now holding our women just wait and see what will happen to your women.”  Women and children are being used as pawns on both sides of this war.  This artwork examines the political environment around the kidnapped girls.  The artwork is “behind bars”.  The bars are made from paper hole-punched and ripped as paper is when torn from a notebook, bridal lace blackened with charcoal, and digital images of the Boko Haram.  The paper used is the artist’s old drawings, what she considers her notes (commenting on how Boko Haram means western education is a sin).


Mixed media on paper

60" x 46"

2014


Running Girl Number 24

Running Girl Number 5

Running Girl Twenty-Something

Mixed media on paper

60" x 44"

2015

Running Girl Number 30

These two Running Girls comment on Mo’ne Davis who pitched the first shutout ever in the Little League World Series at the age of 13.  Out of the 9000 players who have participated in the Little League World Series only 18 have been girls.  Mo’ne is the same age as many of the kidnapped girls, and with a 70 mph fastball, isn’t afraid to show the boys what girls can do.  She says, “I never thought that at the age of 13 I would be a role model, but now it’s real...”  (As are all the kidnapped girls who put their lives at risk to get educated).  The homeplate shape symbolizes a home and all those recently displaced from their homes due to religious wars.  It is also a metaphor for the “homemaker”.   The text art “steal home” wishes the kidnapped girls safe return home.


In addition, this artwork builds on the history of art.  Historically, artist were obedient servants to the papacy, yet many had heretical messages hidden in their artworks.  So this Running Girl plays with that fact by hiding the religious symbol -- a sword representing Joan of Arc. The relevance of Joan is that she was a teenage martyr who was burned at the stake for her beliefs. She tried to escape captivity and argued in her trial, “It is lawful for any prisoner to try and escape.”  The artwork reflects on the growing number of people around the world who are being forced to hide their religious beliefs to survive.


Running Girl Number 13

The words “a visual glory hellelujah” are based on the writer Nicholson Baker’s description of popular video games  as “a visual glory hallelujah.”  The text art makes the connection between video games and violence since Jihad extremists are taking the world’s most violent video game, Grand Theft Auto, and creating versions in which young players act as Jihad terrorists going on wild killing rampages.  (So extremists are now using western video games to romanticize war and recruit westerners who will then turn around and kill westerners.)  The art uses imagery that is reminiscent of the most profitable video game ever made, Pac-Man.  The right edge and crown references school notebook paper’s ripped edges.


The crown of gold star “thorns” is made from gold star pins which symbolize doing well on schoolwork and the way the military honors courage in battle.  The “crown of stars” points to Christianity and education being under attack.  The crown also refers to the laurel wreath given to victorious marathon runners.   


The crown is also part of a chess metaphor (the queen) as a symbol for St. Theresa of Avila.  St. Theresa wrote about playing the game of chess as a metaphor for seeking God.  She is often portrayed with an arrow through her heart and believed to have died from wounds inflicted from the arrows of divine love.  


Mixed media on paper

60" x 46"

2015


Running Girl Number 28

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Running Girl Number13

According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s recent book on feminism, Lean In, her favorite quote is from a poster in Facebook’s offices which says, “What would I do if I was not afraid?”  She uses this motto to motivate working women in the U.S.  When that quote is contrasted against the situation the Nigerian schoolgirls face, it puts it in a different perspective. Since Sandberg was a click away from over 11 million Facebook users in Nigeria and a billion around the world, and a few of them must have known exactly where these girls were located, she had the power to do something much bigger than a book or a speech – on a global scale – to help women.  One might ask her what she is so afraid f?  So this artwork critiques feminists for leaning in too much, and not out enough– into the world. It also asks artists if they are afraid to make art that critiques extremists.  


The A’s in the text art are symbolic of the three straight-A schoolgirls who boarded a plane in London on February 20th (2015) and flew to Istanbul where they would then go on to join ISIL.  The art comments on how the Boko Haram and ISIL use social networks such as Facebook to recruit young girls and boys.  When the Boko Haram announced it had formed an alliance with ISIL, it did so via Twitter.   In fact, Facebook is profiting from these terrorists as they make money from ads on their pages.  (And every youtube video of a beheading by ISIL or a threat by the Boko Haram begins with a cute advertisement.)  A recent report by J.M. Berger of the Brookings Institution states ISIL has over 46,000 Twitter accounts.  


Mixed media on paper

60" x 44"

2015

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Running Girl 30 refers to a BBC report dated March (2015) that the American University of Nigeria is feeding over 270,000 people displaced from their homes due to the Boko Haram.  They are mostly women since the men have been “burned or forced to join the Boko Haram.”  A few of the refugees are the young girls who escaped the Chibok school by running for their lives. The girls are all continuing to study and learn while there.  One of the girls recently said, “Education gives me the wings to fly, the power to fight and the voice to speak.”  


Mixed media on paper

44" x 60"

2015

Number 27 is a trilogy of look-alike drawings. The series of three is based on the fact that the leader of the Boko Haram has so many look-alikes that one never knows if he has actually been killed when a dead body that appears to be him is found. (Detail shows the same face on all three #27s.) The Trinity is a Christian metaphor for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The artworks incorporate text art stating 1. Badluck  2. Goodluck and 3. Dumbluck -- all derived from the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon’s  name.  The Trinity comments on events in mid-October 2014 when the Nigerian government said the kidnapped girls would be freed in a week as part of a cease-fire.  The London Telegraph hinted the cease-fire was driven by the upcoming announcement that Goodluck will be running for President again and just a political stunt.  The girls were not freed as promised. In the full view of the artworks below, the word “deceased-fire” refers to all the people killed by the Boko Haram since the supposed cease-fire began.  The F grade represents that the Boko Haram is fighting against educating women and grades Goodluck. Note that the letter “L” has been dropped from Badluck and the “f” from deceased-fire replaces it.  This symbolizes the bad things being done by bad men and the continued raping of the missing girls. The “f” in Goodluck is about what he has done to the country.  And the “f” in Dumbluck references how the Boko Haram is against educating women (yet it is through the education of women that we can stop this cycle of violence).  The loss of the “L” and the substitution of the “f” removes any love from the situation.  Here, the repeated use of the word luck and belief in luck also dismisses God from it.


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The Look-Alike Running Girls

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               Email: mihelicm@icloud.com

2014-present Copyright Mary Mihelic.  All rights reserved.




Mixed media on paper

60" x 44"

2014


Running Girl Number 2

On February 24th (2014), the Daily Mail reported that some Boko Haram fighters were disguising themselves as women and wearing layers of colorful clothing in an attempt to avoid the attention of security officials.  Only they refused to shave off their thick jihadi beards so they were caught.  The artowrk gets a B grade since “B” is for boy not gir  Detail imagery below shows a terrorist in a school uniform skirt l.  


Mixed media on paper

60" x 46"

2015

The text art in this Running Girl is based on the title of the New York Times bestseller on feminism,  How to be a Woman. The author, Caitlan Moran is described on the cover as “a feminist heroine for our times”. This drawing reflects on this heroism and asks us to compare it to the heroism of schoolgirls who risk their lives to get educated and are kidnapped while studying for exams.       

Mixed media on paper

60" x 36"

2021



Running Girl Number 14

Running Girl Number 3

Running Girl Number 10

On November 1 (2014), the leader of the Boko Haram announced in a video that all  the kidnapped schoolgirls had been married off and converted to Islam laughing at any notion of a supposed ceasefire deal.  He said to the parents of the girls, “If you knew what state your daughters were in, it might lead some of you to die from grief...”  This artwork incorporates text art and is setup as a notebook with a ripped out page as a metaphor for these girls being ripped from their homes.


Mixed media on paper

60" x 44"

2014


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Running Girl Number 31,099

The only schoolgirls to escape from the Boko Haram after being captured are four who got away during a botched "goodwill" exchange.  These girls reported back that they were raped every day.  Since the latest official count of missing girls is 219 (the unofficial count is higher due to the fact that some parents are afraid to come forward and say their children are missing) and the girls have been missing 142 days as of this artwork,  then if you do the math – which they don’t want girls doing because that requires education – the total number of  rapes to the date of this artowrk was 31,098.  That number is in white and goes up to 31,099.


Mixed media on paper

51" x 53"

2014



Running Girl Number Six