Renee van Bavel

Every Woman A Monument

In the winter and spring of 2023/2024, I was asked as Artist in Residence at the Ravensbrück National Memorial. I was tasked with setting new impulses with art and developing new ways in which we can commemorate and bring the story of the Memorial into the future in an accessible way.

The Ravensbrück concentration camp, built by the SS in 1939, was the largest women’s concentration camp in the German Reich.

As soon as I arrived at the Ravensbrück National Memorial, I felt compelled by an instinctual drive to begin crafting what would become “Every Woman A Monument.” Intuitively, I started cutting out female silhouettes from all the paper and cardboard material I could find, and I began creating individual monuments for each woman. I wanted to honor each of the women who were imprisoned in the camp, offering a silent tribute to lives of unimaginable suffering.

As I immersed myself in the stories of these women, listened to interviews, read books, watched videos, looked at pictures, studied the history, and spent hours walking around the memorial site, trying to understand what happened on these grounds, my hands worked, cutting and cutting until my studio around me was filled with many small monuments. Each silhouette was different in color and material, yet somehow connected in shape, each representing a silent homage to the stories of the all the women imprisoned within those harrowing walls.

During the creative process of the work, I knew my efforts would never be enough to honor each and every one of them. But the impossible attempt of “Every Woman A Monument” made one thing visible: the dimension of the horror that took place here.

Approximately 120,000 women and children, along with 21,200 adolescent girls and young women, were registered as prisoners at Ravensbrück between 1939 and 1945.

The artwork “Every Woman A Monument” wants to reminds us of all these women, each and every one of them. Each silhouette, though small in stature, stands as a testament to all the women who faced unimaginable darkness, all their stories. Each is an individual, yet together they form a chorus of bravery, a tribute to the resilience of every woman who walked through the gates of Ravensbrück and never came out or came out forever changed.

“Every Woman A Monument” is a never-ending attempt to keep the stories of all these women alive and honor each one of them.