Women Cliché

Disecting a notion :

Soavina Ramaroson’s „Women cliché“

Text by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung

The genesis of the onomatopoeic word “cliché“ lies in the peculiar sound that arises during a stereotyping process of printing technology… and indeed at the roots of their technological usage, the printer-words “cliché” and “stereotype” are synonyms. Tracing back to the Greek of meaning of stereotype, composing of στερεός (stereos) “firm” + τύπος (tupos) “impression,” one can easily comprehend the modern psychological meaning of these expressions as coined by Walter Lippmann in his 1922 seminal text Public Opinion , .
In this same line of cognitive psychology, artist Soavina Ramaroson (*1977, Madagascar) embarked on a photographical research of phrases, ideas, images, symbols and connotations on women that have been overused so that they dwindled into clichés or rendered stereotypes.
Coming to think of it, stereotypes about certain groups of people, races, genders, sexual orientation, religions or social status are as old as mankind… and clichés about women date as far back as the biblical allegory of Eve betraying Adam and Mankind by ceding to the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
In his photographic series “Women cliché”, Ramaroson meticulously put together a process, that involved an almost perfect sketching of his intensions prior to realising them with his female models. Reminiscent of his architectural background the sketches encompass a figure in a three-dimensional space, with all components precisely labelled. These sketches, which were originally meant to only be drafts for a working process, now serve as negatives or stereoplates and to the least as title blocks of the photographic works.
Ramaroson tries, with much zeal and zest, to ignite a dialogue on the basis of political, social or religious women clichés prevailing in our societies today. The “red thread” in all the artworks in this series is a white rope that at the same time symbolises the causes and consequences of these clichés. The white rope also symbolises the strong attachment related to clichés, how difficult it is to get rid of clichés or maybe just reveals that clichés are a never-ending line of thoughts i. e. a “firm impression.”
This series goes beyond mental labelling, subconscious or conscious stereotyping; it dwells more or less around the frontiers of conscience and steps into a poetical constructivism in the form of photography. The works are surrounded by irony and are a microcosm of prevalent women clichés, reflecting empathy, obsession, aggression, weakness or desperation. The satirical poetry of Ramaroson’s works is striking; In I’m free, the female models of various skin and eye colours are veiled in black, so that only their full, sometimes over-painted succulent lips and alluring eyes are revealed. The rigidness and stirnness of their looks and the ropes around their necks disclose everything but freedom! Nevertheless the luscious looks deep behind their eyes betray an almost sadomasochistic tendency associated with some religious groups.