Why We Serve is a research process examining women’s service to the state in conflict contexts, particularly in relation to religiously motivated wars. Often framed as casualties in war, women have also defied assumed narratives and in some instances, have taken on combative roles with Kurdish women fighters immediately coming to mind – but beyond counter-insurgencies such as in the Rojava revolution, women also assume combat as a civic duty.

The process is conducted through performativity (walking in uniform, mapping, drawing, audio/discussion) Having explored the notion of labour in my practice, I have often staged performances in my National Youth Service Corps uniform alluding to questions around civil participation in everyday life. Through my time in Israel, my uniform will be a marker for the work as it gradually accumulates the shared stories and maps of walks.

By cross-referencing the political contexts of Nigeria and Israel, the militarised aesthetics evident on the streets in both states establishes a degree of commonality, but the stark contrast in relation to gender and conflict provides a more challenging exchange. In the former, women have been framed as casualties of the Boko Haram insurgency with few serving in the Nigerian army, while the reverse is true in Israel, with many staying on beyond conscription. The territorial struggle that defines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also echoed in the drive for militants to seize the north of Nigeria.

Why We Serve is undertaken as part of Art Cube Artists’ Studios international annual residency programme funded by the Jerusalem Foundation.

On 5th July 2018, I will be taking part in a live event marathon at Art Cube Artists’ Studios, creating a performance based on my research project Why We Serve. I will also be in conversation with artistic director Maayan Sheleff discussing women’s service in a talk titled ‘Agents or Servants: On the Female Civic Body’

Photo by Tal Kronkop