In places in the world that have experienced war, especially if protracted as in Angola, bodies are far less likely to be "whole" and more likely be missing limbs. Even here in the West, people with disabilities are too often invisible, and a "whole" or "perfect" body is a precondition for the designation "beautiful". When was the last time you saw a model in a magazine or an actress on television who was missing a limb, or was even in a wheelchair? Can we not bear the fact that bodies reflect their experiences, sometimes in very visible ways? Would we rather the scars stay psychological, intimate, secret - so we don't have to be invested in others' pain? Or can we not wrap our minds around the fact that a wounded body does not necessarily mean a victim to be pitied? Do we not also then miss out on something important - the strength and bravery and, indeed, beauty of survivors?
A line at the upper left-hand corner of the picture reads "Everybody has the right to be beautiful." The woman standing below is surely that, dressed in beauty-pageant regalia, Atlantic waves meeting Angolan sands behind her. She is Miss Landmine Angola 2007. Showcased in the photograph are the attributes classically aligned with feminine beauty: high cheekbones, full lips, a curvaceous figure. Yet it is what the photograph, shot from the waist up, hides that makes her beauty a thing unparalleled, unusual, both tragic and wonderful. The lower half of her left leg is missing, a testament to her encounter with a landmine. She is one of several women featured in the Miss Landmine Angola project to raise awareness about the world's plague of landmines and to empower those who have survived them. Learn about the project and see this year's contestants at Miss-Landmine.org. Via Utne
Whatever one thinks of beauty pageants, this one has a positive message. The crowning of the world's first Miss Landmine will be taking place in Luanda, Angola on April 4th, 2008, the UN International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Vote for candidates here.