In a story which seems perfectly in tune with our present-day political climate, Reka Nyari’s new suite of photographs, Valkyrie Ink, displays the vision of a warrior.

photography by REKA NYARI

In this article:
May 18, 2018

Valkyrie Ink is a photographic series about a woman by the name of Eowyn who, after being severely abused by men in her childhood, and resulting episodes of self-mutilation, reclaimed her body by tattooing her skin.

In the current climate and the resurgence of the impassioned Me Too movement, it is important to address the aesthetics we associate with the naked female body. These images of Eowyn are not for viewing pleasure, and audience is not invited to judge a nude woman; they are to celebrate her freedom, her self-empowerment, her resilience as a human being, and her reconciliation with her past. Eowyn is a Viking warrior.

This new body of work continues to explore a central element of Nyari’s practice: intimate studies of self-identity and female empowerment through nude portraiture.

Nyari’s series portrays a young woman who endured a great deal of trauma since childhood and who, starting at the age of 16, adorned her body with an abundance of tattoos. Best understood as an audacious act of resistance, these did not only send a deliberate signal of strength to peers and predators, but reclaimed a body marked by the scars of self-inflicted cuts and a soul marked by abuse and mistreatment. The undulating lines, symbols, and words that cover her skin become an emblematic suit of armor.

Existing luminously in commanding poses, and brightly lit against a dark backdrop, Eowyn is shown at times in ferocious movement and at times in tender stillness. The enigmatic scenes are instilled with imagery from Viking folklore, and saturated with glimpses into her personal history. Nyari draws from the myth of the Valkyrie, Norse heroine goddesses who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live. The artist exaggerates this ethos using costume and items faithful to Viking weapons and adornments; each title reference legendary female Viking warriors, goddesses, and Norse weaponries.

While Nyari explores the creation of a strengthened self-image through tattoos, the scenes which the artist invents often transcend into the realm of discomfort or unease. Nyari constructs a storyline around her heroine, thus proposing that self-empowerment and reconciliation with one’s traumas is inextricably linked to the creation of a personal mythos — it is the act of creating one’s own skin, of inventing one’s own story.

The resulting photographs are nuanced portraits of a female warrior, telling a story of strength and transformation, and of the enduring female spirit. Nyari’s sensitive portrayal of Eowyn’s scars and adornment, both understood as physical manifestations of the heroine’s abuse and resilience, carry an inspiring combination of vulnerability and courage. Addressing the complex facets of body art, Nyari makes Eowyn’s tattoos understood as symbols of vigor and triumph.

The artist says: “these tattoos remind Eowyn to stay courageous and tough. They tell the story of her life and allow us to peer into her past and share her emotion and bravery. For example, the large Phoenix on her back shows her rebirth and her spirit that, instead of breaking, broke free.”

This compelling series of photographs are presently being exhibited in Toronto until June 9, as a part of the Contact Photography Fair. for more information, go to Coldstream Fine Art.

Valkyrie Ink will also be traveling to Paris to be exhibited November 9-12 during PARIS PHOTO: International Fine Art Photography Fair and the next Venice Biennale 2019.

Finally, if you are intrigued by Valkyrie Ink, you may want to purchase Geisha Ink, a beautifully realized suite of images in a luxuriously produced, limited edition book.