Words and photos by Jenni Mazaraki
Yes. I do. See you, that is.
I see the way you tilt your hand upwards towards your chest when you are speaking about things that matter to you. I see your eyes look away when you speak about the things that trouble you. I see the corners of your mouth pinch tightly when you are angry at the things you’ve seen.
When you draw, you show me what you want me to see. I am your witness. This is not a parlour game or a party trick. This is your life. No, I can’t tell you what it means. I cannot read your mind. There isn’t a special book of symbols to tell me what you know, what you keep hidden from everyone else around you.
If anyone wants to know what you’ve drawn and what it means, I have to ask you. You are the expert of your art work, of your imagery. You might feel like you’re falling right now, but you are the expert in your own life. You. Do you see yourself as I see you?
You are capable. Something happened and then you collapsed into yourself. You couldn’t bear to look. I agree with you. It’s too much for one person to bear. That’s why I’m here. You’re not alone.
You used to dance. Now you don’t for fear of failure. You had a baby and everyone told you that you were doing it wrong. You suffered horrendous injuries and there was no one to talk to about the extent of your pain. You live alone and all day long you sing just to hear a voice echo in your rooms. And then you come here, to this space and you want to be heard. You don’t want advice. You sit down and pick up a pencil and you start to draw. You want to be seen to exist in the eyes of others. Your pain is real. Your experience is real. It happened. I see you. I believe you.
You made that. It came from you. Yesterday that artwork did not exist, and now, because you took the time to sit with your feelings and your life, it is real. The artwork reflects back at you what you have hidden. You’ve hidden it for good reason. You’ve waited for the right moment. You’ve waited for safety and stability. You’ve waited for respect and care. I will not push you. I will not turn away. I will see what you have to show me and show you that it is OK to be seen.
It happened. I see you. I believe you.
“Image work, at bottom, is about bearing witness to our stories and the stories of others without whitewash or turning away. The witness receives and affirms the ever-changing, ever-evolving story. We are each our own primary witness, and we need to be witnesses for one another.” Allen, P. B. (1995). Art is a Way of Knowing.