|Photographed By Ellinor Forje|
“Liya did a great job. I met her in the 1990's at a party at Iman's apartment in New York City. I was at the peak of my career and Liya was a beginner. She starred at me all the time and then introduced herself. Ten years later, she became a supermodel herself and played me in the movie," said Waris Dirie. Besides the fact that Liya Kebede is perfect for the role, I'm wondering, "Who else was at that party?”
“Desert Flower” (2009), is based on an autobiography written by Dirie. Elton John bought the rights to the book shortly after it was published in 1997. However, the author and acquirer didn't agree on the script leading Dirie to sign with German Academy Award winner Peter Hermann instead. The premise centers around Dirie, whose name literally means desert flower, and her escape from an arranged marriage which forces her to run through the barren lands of Somalia to England. After a time of trials and tribulations she eventually becomes a model in London, and resumes her life as a nomad by moving between Paris, London, Milan and New York. Glamorous as it may seem, her traumatic past remains present.
Dirie who was completely involved in the production says, “I was shocked and burst into tears when I saw it the first time. It's very hard to see your own life in a film.” The film is hard to watch, and the book even harder to read, although I recommend you do both. And I'll back up my advice. Several years ago in Boston, after a George Michael concert, I noticed a guy wearing a t-shirt with the sentence “Stop Male Genital Mutilation" written at the back. This sparked my curiosity as to whether the letters “F” and “E” were written somewhere in the front. After a swift semi stalker-ish maneuver made to appear like I was walking towards the chap from the opposite direction, I discovered that they weren't. Instead there was a sentence that read “If it's not okay for girls, then it's not okay for boys.”
After initiating a conversation, I was informed that John Doe was discontent with the reality of his parents decision to circumcise him without his permission or approval. And if there was movement advocating for women then one should exist for men, too. Then he blamed the Africans, Jews, Arabs, WASPs, colonial rule, the post-world war immigrants, Hispanics excluded, the Abrahamic religions, Roswell 1958, the government, and the cosmetic industry for their continued scheme.
“Cosmetics, like lipstick you mean?”
“No, creams women rub on their faces to prevent them from getting wrinkles.”
Even though he was on a mission to raise Cain, I decided to Listen Without Prejudice.
With that said, the procedures are not comparable. Female circumcision is ultimately about control, or as Dirie explains, “FGM is a crime against women. It destroys female sexuality and self-determination.”