Miss Landmine: the right to be beautiful

March 2008 -

Miss Huíla is 25 years old, has three children and no job. Her azure blue dress cost 34 euros and the necklace she wears seven. She had just turned fourteen when soldiers invaded her village. As she fled, she stepped on a PMD-6 anti-personnel landmine, made in Russia and purchased for fourteen euros. She lost her right leg. Just like Miss Bié, Miss Malanje and seven other beauties. On April fourth of 2008, one of these women will be crowned as Angola's first Miss Landmine, as the country continues to slowly recover from nearly three decades of war.


Miss MALANJE. Phto (c) www.miss-landmine.org

To Norwegian actor and director Morten Traavik, the intellectual father of the project, these women are not victims: they are survivors. He calls the Miss Landmine pageant an art project that "will have political and humanitarian impact", challenging existing beauty ideals. "When I visited Angola for the first time in 2003, I saw a beauty pageant organised by street urchins in an alley. It touched my heart to see none of the commerce and sexism that are associated with events of this type in our Western culture. To the contrary: it was a feel-good experience, a celebration for the entire neighbourhood. Girls between the ages of seven and seventeen paraded back and forth with serious dedication."

And thus the idea was born for Miss Landmine, which is supported by the Angolan government and the European Union. There was only one criterion for the preliminaries: the women themselves had to want to participate. According to Traavik, this means that they have accepted their appearance despite the visible consequences of war. Next a photo-shoot was held. The glamorous results can be seen on the web site. Visitors were invited to vote for their favourite Miss Landmine in recent months. "When I look at those photos, I see true beauty. I see beautiful women who are proud of themselves, who feel at ease and worthy. In these photos, the desire to live conquers all."