MEXICO CITY – Rita Resendiz and her fellow group of clay artisans were listening to the radio inside their workshop in Mexico’s capital in 2002 when they were shaken by the story of a mother unable to recover the body of her slain daughter.
Since then, they have crafted nearly 300 masks in a series known as “Rostros del olvido” (Faces of Oblivion) to draw attention to Mexico’s scourge of gender-based killings of women, or femicides, which Resendiz says are the country’s “open wound.”
Made of clay and life-sized, the pieces created by the Mujeres Alfareras de Tlahuac (Female Potters of Tlahuac) are a cry of pain, shock, surprise, impotence and rage.
Each of the 270 female faces tells a story. Some have their eyes open, while others are closed; one has a bruised eye, while others have a scratched nose, a deep cut or blood running down one cheek.
“We wanted them to express what a woman may be feeling and thinking in her final moments, when they’re unjustly taking her life, and in a violent manner,” Resendiz, the group’s founder, told EFE at her workshop in Tlahuac, a borough on Mexico City’s south side.
The artisan pointed to two pieces that pack a particularly powerful emotional punch. One has lips painted blue and two tears falling from brown-colored eyes; its expression of “enormous sadness” reflects the sorrow of a woman whose death left her three children orphaned.
The mask beside it shows a woman bathed in tears who refuses to close her eyes.
“She is feeling a great deal of pain and, at the same time, a lot of anger that this is happening to her,” Resendiz said.
“It’s our open wound,” she said, adding that she cannot understand why this devastating epidemic of killings – seven women are murdered every day in Mexico, according to official figures – does not spark greater societal outrage.
She mentioned the case of activist Marisela Escobedo, who was killed in 2010 outside the governor’s palace in the northern state of Chihuahua while protesting the murder of her daughter two years earlier.
The artisan also noted that a recent protest by mothers of disappeared persons outside the Secretariat of the Interior in Mexico City drew only a small crowd.
“I don’t understand why there can’t be more societal anger. I don’t understand it,” Resendiz said.