Photographer and author Paola Gianturco presented her recent publication “Celebrating Women” and lectured on her work with women from Africa, Asia, and South America Tuesday in the Northridge Center.
Gianturco worked as a photojournalist for five years documenting women for her new book. She said she attended 17 festivals in 15 countries on five continents, looking to understand the different experiences women have around the world.
“I thought they were heroic,” Gianturco said. “I wanted to meet them, I wanted to document their lives.”
Some of the women she encountered were goddesses, warriors and lovers, and played many other important roles in their communities.
She spoke about mothers in South Africa living on less than a dollar a day, working to feed their children. She said she learned that women support half of the families in the world when she attended a conference in Beijing.
She shared this with the audience simply to inform them that situations like these exist.
“I hope some of you will be inspired by this,” Gianturco, who wants people to get involved with problems around the world such as starvation, and violence against women, said.
Senior graphic design major Melissa Escobar said she already knew some of the facts presented by Gianturco, but some were revealing and surprising to her.
“I was pretty shocked with some of the things I heard,” Escobar said. “But also, it was very interesting.”
Gianturco displayed photographs of women, some of women dancing, working, or simply conducting their daily routines.
She mentioned that beadwork has been a part of South African women’s history for 400 years, and is one of the crafts that the women sell.
During festivals, women make their own music by clapping and improvising musical instruments with vacuum hoses and other items they could find.
Many of these women are princesses, costume-designers, dancers, and spectators. They attend the festivals to celebrate rites of passages, religious ceremonies, competitions and virginity.
She spoke of one South African woman’s life-changing experience in 1994, when women began having more job options. Before then, women usually found work in housekeeping.
The woman told Gianturco that now women could create jobs for themselves, and in return would have “power, strength and life.”
Together with her group, Gianturco gathered money and opened a bank account for these women. They would use the money to purchase raw materials, and make beadwork to export to Europe and the United States.
Gianturco spent time basket weaving with Zulu women. She would gather grass with them and weave mats.
She spoke of the painfully troubled lives of women in Zimbabwe, where women struggle to educate their children.
“I am unbelievably proud of how the book is generating money to help embrace the lives of these people,” Gianturco said.
She gave the royalties to six non-profit organizations.
Gianturco is co-author and photographer of the best-seller, “In Her Hands: Craftswomen Changing the World.” Her photographs have been exhibited at the Field Museum in Chicago, the United Nations, the United States Senate, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.
CSUN’s College of Humanities, and Pan African Studies, Women’s Studies and Art department co-sponsored the event.