BLOOD SPEAKS: A Ritual of Exile

In collaboration with JAPC Productions

Blood Speaks comprises of three VR films, photographs, projections, soundscapes and interviews in order to crack open the veil of silence and shame experienced by women, linking menstrual exile to wider conversations concerning normalized gender-based violence. Blood Speaks doesn’t seek to just inform, it seeks to immerse audiences in a hidden world, making them bear witness to the injustice of this practice. 

The origin of this violence is the impurity of a woman’s menstrual blood. Hidden, under reported and unresolved, these women are untouchable. Perpetrated under the guise of Hindu tradition, this violence takes the form of ‘exiles’ which keeps menstruation shrouded in mystery and taboo, a weapon to shame women into subservience. 

Central to this story is the ritual of Chaupadi in Nepal in which girls and women are forced to endure an exile in rudimentary shelters, many barely sufficient for animals, while they are menstruating. Chaupadi sits within an intricate web of abuse and patriarchy, interrelated with issues of child marriage and child widows. This is one of the most brutal and degrading human rights violations to women. During this menstrual exile women are often abused, bitten by snakes, raped and even murdered.

Selection, Margaret Mead Film Festival 2018

Shortlist: Sheffield Doc Fest Alternate Realities Commission Award, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and the Tim Herthington Visionary Award. 

Saraswati

Lakshmi

Tula

Saraswati 

Saraswati is only 16 and three days ago she gave birth. Bleeding at childbirth begins a 15 day period of exile. Forbidden to touch water, she is not allowed to fully clean herself. After childbirth she developed serious health problems, with her legs becoming so swollen that she has difficulty walking. Traumatized by her ordeal, she is battling severe stress disorder and has had breakdowns. 

Lakshmi 

Lakshmi, 29, is forced into exile by her mother in law, who enforces the strictest and longest form of exile. Patriarchal systems perpetuate and create systems that encourage the oppression of one women by another. Lakshmi has three young children. Five year old Roshan is too young to be without his mother and must endure the exile alongside her. Abandoned by her husband, she faces her exile and raises her children alone. Despite all the obstacles, Lakshmi’s instinct to protect and provide for her children is undeafted. This story is a testament to Lakshmi resilience in the face of such violence and stigma.

Tula 

Tula is 16. Every month she is exiled as menstruating women are deemed as untouchables. Banished into an animal shed, Tula’s legs are badly bitten by insects and, as a result, are seriously infected. With no access to medicine and living with a restricted diet she must continue to work so that she can support her family. Tula is now thinking of dropping out of school.


Using Format