First of all… This is not a scream for attention. This is not provoking to provoke. This is a message for humanity. Praying for Equality. And probably also now for our own safety (Jesse’s and mine)
The whole idea behind these campaigns is to push the boundaries society has built up around us. To break free from everything that is holding us back; our limited belief systems, our religions, our skin colour, etc.
As soon as we come to this Earth, we get pushed onto a path. A path that we might not even want to follow. Depending on where we are born everything is decided for us, before we even get the chance to think for ourselves.
This is all about a message, and the message is all about making people think for themselves through our imagery. We're trying to help people break free of their mental imprisonment by the governments and religions of this planet. We have all become so blinded and dumified that we just accept. We do not question anything anymore. Everything is controlled, manipulated. Follow the rules, follow the books, follow the leader, leader, leader follow the leader… (sorry got a little distracted there)
The word religion derives from the Latin word religio and it is connected to the notion of sacred. Ligare, meaning to re-connect, re-bind, re-tie. More specifically, to re-unite man to Divinity, to re-create a bond with the Divine. ‘Re-eligere’ which means to choose again God, to make a new choice again towards the Divine. Despite the slight differences, the origins of the word religion all indicate a re-connection, a re-bonding with the Divine or a re-turn to God. They also seem to indicate that we are in fact re-turning to something that is already there and simply needs to be re-connected to.
So by elaborating these actions, we are not trying to make fun of God. And we are defenitely not implying there is no God. Because God is you. You are the divine. We need to reconnect with ourselves. With our spirits. We are all one. One entity. Born under the same moon, under the same stars. A body, carrying a heart, carrying a mind. A body so powerful and capable of creating the most beautiful art and on the contrary, creating the most awful wars. Wars between stars…
After being blacklisted from Egypt, the same thing will probably happen for Turkey. But we're only getting warmed up, there's much more to come. A lot of people will probably call us insane by doing these kind of ‘stunts’ but once again, we want people to reconnect the dots. And honestly, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with showing the world what God created... On the contrary...
TURKISH DELIGHT Reunited in Turkey, Ready for another rumble in the jungle... It had been just over a year that Jesse and I split physical paths. We both knew there would be a part 2. We just didn’t know when, where or how exactly… but... it was bound to happen. On the 22nd of March the stars were aligned again and we found ourselves sharing gözlemes in the lively streets of Istanbul. Unlike Egypt, we didn’t have a solid plan this time. No preparation at all but an endless imagination and a pretty strong foundation…
The next morning at breakfast we put all our carts on the table and started planning the shots we wanted to visualize. -Sunbathing on Turkish Flag -Flashing bush in Hagia Sophia -Cappadoccia - hot air balloons -Chilling on roof in front of Mosque -Smoking Shisha -Bosphorus Boat Trip -Carpet Shop … List goes on.
Up next; Buying the Hijab.
This was for sure going to be the trickiest shot of all but we figured it would be best to start of with a big tackle. After asking around for a bit, the Grand Bazaar seemed like the place to be. Fake designer handbags, the most colorful carpets and Hijabs in every direction we looked... We enter a random store. As seasons change and people don’t, Jesse was still retrieving a lot of joy of putting me unexpectedly in the roll of his wife. So he pulled that card once again in the Hijab-shop. Jesse steps up and asks the sales-guy for a fully black burka. The guy asks: ‘for who’? Jesse says: ‘It’s for my wife, right here. We just got married and I want her skin exclusively for me now. Covered up from head to toe.’ A quirky approving smile appeared on the guys face. So I looked at him and smiled shyly, as a freshly married wife that’s about to be deprived from the sunlight would do. He ran into the basement which gave me just enough time to punch Jesse’s arm. A few seconds later the guy brought back a dozen different dresses. I tried on a few. The guy said ‘Güzel, Beautiful, Beautiful’ Jesse said ‘yes, amazing! Exactly what I want’. Seems like that deal was done. It also seemed that my opinion already wasn’t of big value anymore. So we leave the shop, accelerating, headed back to the hotel to prepare and fully accomplish the Mission.
TAKE 1 As we were getting closer to the Sophia, the crowd got thicker too. Even though my masquerade was on point, we got a lot of stares. First I thought it was the rhythm of our way of walking but then I realized where their eyes were really going - A scanning gaze down my brand-new outfit till their eyes would reach my feet - Then their eyes went back up, a few gears higher then on the way down, to give me a stare straight into my eyes. I could see them thinking ‘Girl, what are you doing??! What are you up to…’ ... We should’ve bought new shoes too. But we were so pumped up when we arrived back at the hotel, we just wanted to get into action asap - since I always travel light, the only options I had were my running shoes or my flip-flops. I went for the flip-flops. -Jesse helped me pull the dress to stretch it a little but still a few centimeters of the ground…-
After an humongous waiting line to enter, we got kind of caught off-guard with the uncountable amount of security cameras. They literally have every square centimeter covered. We wander around for a bit and end up finding a good corner on the first floor, still tons of people though. But the light was so incredible there, we decided to scoop it out for a few minutes. Jesse was adjusting the settings while I was just looking around and kind of mentally preparing myself. I removed my flip-flops and put them on the side. 15 minutes of taking tourist-snaps passed by. Conclusion: a moment with no-one around was never going to happen. We decided to wait for a guided group and while the guide was telling his story and everyone was paying full attention, it would be game-time!
A big group was lurking around the corner, approaching us. This was our chance. I could feel my heartbeat in my throat, hear it in my head. Jesse was holding his camera as if he was ready to pull the trigger. He looks with his left eye on the side of his lens and nods. I pull up my dress. 10 frames per second for 5 seconds. I drop my dress. Jesse nods again, turns around and starts walking, I follow. I ask him ‘Do you got it?’ He says ‘Yes, let’s go! Now!’ Without being stopped (surprisingly) we leave the Sophia.
TAKE 2 If there’s a take 1, there’s usually a take 2. After loading in the images that night, we weren’t as excited as we should have been. For some reason we didn’t get it exactly right. In one photo I didn’t like the expression on my face (way too tense) - another one wasn’t completely sharp, etc, etc. There was one we kind of liked but we basically both felt like we could have done better. We kept scrolling through them over and over again, till Jesse concluded: ‘Marisa, we have to go back…’ I was like: ‘No way, we’re not going back, we’re gonna get caught this time, I can feel it.’ He said, ‘Marisa, you have to trust me’. I was like: ‘No way, we gonna end up in jail again, next week I’m leaving for China, we didn’t even finish our Turkey-story, I don’t have time nor energy for jail’ He said: ‘Marisa, we have to go back’ I was like: ‘Ok, we go, whatever, but we’re gonna get caught’ While I was getting dressed I could just sense another Egypte-escapade coming up. But for some reason I did decide to trust upon Jesse’s intuition, so we left the hotel again, waited in line again. Entered the Sophia again… We stroll around for a bit, when we suddenly get hypnotized by the light shining through these giant wooden doors. Of course, these giant wooden doors happen to be right after the entrance, which means, there’s literally hundreds of people passing by every minute. But (again) whatever… Jesse puts himself in the right position, I take off my flip-flops, walk over to ‘the gate of light’, take a strong stand, lift up my Burka. Jesse checks on his screen. We repeat the same action several times till we feel like we are running out of luck. We walk out. We sit ourselves down in the shade on a bench right outside the mosque, scroll through them... I look up from the screen and glance at Jesse’s face, it was like a mirrored expression. We stand up to leave the shade and feel the sun caressing our smiling faces.
As soon as we exit the gate, I pull off my Hijab to free my hair. We treat ourselves with some Turkish Delights and a pomegranate juice. What a rush!
THE REST OF THE TRIP These campaigns are challenging in every way. But Jesse and I like to think of ourselves like a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. On a James Bond mission. Loving every minute of the danger that continually presents itself to us.
Our close friends in Istanbul had sternly warned us about local government religious spies that watch over the communities and report anything that seems anti-religious or just out of the very constrained norm. At one point the police had come to our hotel in Istanbul interrogating the staff about our location just a day after we had left. The hotel texted us asking not to return for ours and their sake. At this point, we again knew, that this was a very real situation and if we would get caught, we would be very much screwed. We wouldn’t be able to put on the same pokerface as we did in Egypt, since we were already on the radar and they knew what we were up to. The chase was on.
At a location, we can't disclose we tried to shoot for three days straight. On the third day they had hired extra security. Literally all the peaks of the hills were covered with armed men. One of the guards followed us for a whole afternoon and stayed within about a meter from us, he didn't even talk, he just looked like a stone cold killer. His face told of a dark background and we could see this guy was extremely dangerous. We were warned to exit the town asap. It was extremely frustrating for us to leave without completing the mission. But we did. There was no other way this time.
We then travelled back through Adiyaman, Cappadocia and then Istanbul and enjoyed the incredible sites that Turkey has to offer. Despite all the usual chases and bribes we paid along the way to do what we do, Turkey is one the most amazing places on Earth, and her food and landscapes are unforgettable, the people (not including the guards and religious fools) are charming too. A massive thank you to those who helped us, you know who you are. And Thank you Turkey for having us.