Here is an article about Kate Cullen, the 21 year-old sociology student who was studying in Istanbul during the early days of the Gezi Park Protests and the woman in the photograph that inspired this Stained-glass collage.
She describes her desire to participate saying, “My main purpose was just to add one more person to the movement.”
In another question about the moment she was hit with the cannon, she says that she wanted to show the protests were non-violent and threw her arms wide. She goes on to say, “The image is not about me whatsoever. The image is about a symbol, about what these protesters were standing for; in the scheme of things, my act was absolutely nothing. It was no braver than thousands and thousands and thousands of protesters who were doing the same, and more,” and then describes the larger losses of injuries, eyesight, and even death.
Though I would argue, her act was a drop, a big drop, I know what she means about it feeling like nothing.
Often the acts of beauty and love that we do feel quotidian and insignificant, but each choice we make can create or destroy. Each act we perform can sustain or cut off.
Her act, though a tiny drop, is in fact a very big thing. Each protester who sits in the park is part of the larger scheme even if we don’t see them. Each protester is a big thing because all together, each person added to the movement is valuable.
The worth of protest is not in suffering, but rather in compassion. As Cullen points out , “The girl in the black dress is no more me than it is that man who pulled me into the house and gave me lemons….” By participating in this body politic, each one joins together and each act builds together because it is formed in the invisible compassion of the man with the lemons, and by visible empathy drawn to the image of the Nike of Samothrace personified in the Woman in the Black Dress.
Like I said, she could be you, she could be me. She is all of us. Though we are far away, raising awareness about struggles world wide (and in our own backyard) is important. Sure we can’t be a voice for every movement in need of our compassion, but we are all interdependent, and the positive work that we do for each other still betters our civilization.