Arijana Lekić – Fridrih: Silent Mass
participative public performance
3.2.2024. / 08:30
This Saturday, the fourteenth edition of the “Silent Mass,” a collective intervention in the public space by artist Arijana Lekić – Fridrih, will take place in the center of Split (Peristyle). “Silent Mass” is a reaction to the increasing re-traditionalization of the ostensibly secular Croatian society, carried out by men kneeling in supposed prayers every first Saturday of the month in an average of 10 cities across Croatia.
This month, we dedicate the “Silent Mass” to a “strong and powerful” woman who, despite her strength, failed to defend herself against him, even more powerful, and the most powerful of all – the system and strategically always available and ready procedural errors. We dedicate the “Silent Mass” to all women and mothers betrayed by the deeply ingrained patriarchal system in our lives, siding with men, giving them preference and making them “stronger and more powerful.” We dedicate the “Silent Mass” to mothers deprived of the right to parenthood after enduring physical or psychological abuse. Women who did not choose to stay – so their abusers continued to abuse them using legal and judicial mechanisms whose practice seems tailored for perpetual retraumatization. Even if there is a hint of an end to someone’s cycle of abuse, there is still another alternative available to abusers. They continue to threaten their victims whenever they want and mostly freely roam our cities, armed with anger, ego, and sometimes firearms, until they decide to – kill their victims.
In ten months of 2022, 1571 domestic violence offenses were recorded. The report for 2023, as announced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and as we witness daily, will show an increase in domestic violence offenses. Although this data is somewhat encouraging because it shows that more women are reporting violence, we are aware that for every reported case, there are at least as many unreported ones. Women do not trust the system, do not trust the state – rightly so, because in just a few past months, we have witnessed that violence is sometimes a criminal offense, sometimes a misdemeanor, sometimes an unfortunate accident, and sometimes there are procedural errors as excuses that favor the abuser. Depending on who the perpetrator is.
At the same time, every first Saturday of the month, grotesque gatherings take place – invoking inequality for women through the symbolic prayer of the rosary. After over a year of holding the “Silent Mass”, we are deeply disappointed by the nonexistent political reaction to the systematic pouring of hate messages by a group of men towards women and the fact that we have reached a situation where women are not safe and are again fighting for their long-established rights. All this is happening under the motto of support from certain political actors who do nothing even when these gatherings violate the Constitution and the Law on Public Order. It is not a group of men who are “peacefully praying the rosary,” it is an organized action that goes so far that experienced Polish activists join our “Knights” in squares across Croatia.
Today, knowing that behind these “prayers” stands the Ordo Iuris Foundation, we do not need to wonder what future they are preparing for us, but we will fight so that those who come after us do not have to fight these battles, and we will leave behind a society in which women are equal, protected by law, and far from the margins where most women find themselves today.
Unfortunately, in this fight, we do not have allies in politicians, who are responsible to react to such social anomalies, but we hope that in the election year, we will at least hear apologies or explanations for why this has been the case for over a year and whether this is the Croatia they envision even after the upcoming elections.
It is up to us as responsible citizens to warn for the FOURTEENTH time about the public, organized, and paid campaign that invokes the inequality guaranteed to us by the Constitution – regardless of it being presented in the form of a rosary “prayer.” Every citizen of this country has the right to report a gathering if its message does not violate and suppress others’ freedom. The gatherings we oppose explicitly call for a subordinate role for women. Our message is clear and sound: women in this society need to be protected from violence – both from the “prayers” and from the violence within families. As a state, we do not have strong enough mechanisms for this, women may have become a political topic today, but they are still left to fend for themselves, unequal in every respect, in life and in death.
On the Peristyle, Arijana Lekić-Fridrih will stand before the kneeling men, and during the performance of the “Silent Mass,” she will mark the public space around each kneeling man with a red thread, reminding us all of the blood of murdered women, the unbreakable bond between mothers and their children, the last line of defense of women’s rights and the right to a life without violence in a society that will shake, shame, and compel to fundamental change the statistics on family violence. We do not need men’s “prayers” in Croatian squares, but pleas for forgiveness for the unforgivable violence that women endure daily in all spheres of their lives.
Arijana Lekić-Fridrih was born in Zagreb, where she lives and works. She graduated in Film and Video from the Academy of Arts in Split and in Film and TV Directing from the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb. In her activist and artistic work, she addresses the position of marginalized groups and the role of responsible citizenship. Her works live and emerge in public space, and they always have the common goal of change – in society, in public opinion, in each individual. She regularly exhibits in Croatia and abroad.
This project was supported by the Foundation Solidarna through the Fund for Woment, program Actions in Communicy, and funded by PROTEUS project of the Transatlantic Foundation co-funded by the European Union.
For more information about our work in feminism and feminist art, visit our page here.