World-first research in 2019 involving 128 pairs of shoes placed in Boston Harbour helped Murdoch University forensic scientist, Dr Paola Magni, become a global expert in investigating and solving water-based murders.
Now the Italian-born forensics pioneer and passionate justice campaigner has launched another ambitious shoe project, this time to recognise the women in Australia who have lost their lives to gender-based violence.
Partnering with Mexican artist, Elina Chauvet, Dr Magni is bringing the collaborative art installation Los Zapatos Rojos (The Red Shoes) to Perth.
This project - which involves laying pairs of red women’s shoes a body length apart in an iconic city space - will be part of this year’s 16 Days in WA – Stop Violence Against Women campaign and will take place at the WA Museum Boola Bardip from Sunday November 27 to Thursday December 1, 2022.
Chauvet first put together Los Zapatos Rojos in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez in 2009 when her 32-year-old sister was murdered by her husband.
The installation has been replicated in Norway, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Spain, Ecuador, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Africa and Italy, which is where Dr Magni stumbled across the shoes in her hometown of Turin.
She was deeply moved by the powerful visual image of hundreds of pairs of shoes, many bearing hand-written messages from their original owners on the soles or on pieces of paper and began wearing a pair of red stilettos at her public speaking engagements as a conversation starter about femicide.
Now, with an average of one woman across the nation losing their life to violence each week, Dr Magni believes the time is right for Los Zapatos Rojos to make its Australian debut.
Dr Magni reached out to Chauvet for permission to replicate the installation in Perth, wanting to obtain her guidance and endorsement.
“It is incredibly important that we host this installation in the right way and honour Elina’s vision and intent with Red Shoes Australia,” she said.
“I am honoured that she has trusted us to share this moving experience with the people of Western Australia.”
Dr Magni aims to create Red Shoes Australia with 392 pairs of red women’s shoes representing the total number of women murdered in Australia between 2015 and 2020*.
In keeping with Chauvet’s ethos, the shoes must be red (either original or painted) and donated by members of the public to be part of the exhibition. At the end of the installation quality shoes will be donated to charity.
“We have set up several collection points across Perth and we are hoping people will bring along pairs of red shoes with their own special message to form part of the installation,” Dr Magni said.
“I am especially keen for families who may have lost a mother, sister, daughter, aunt or grandmother through gender-based violence to contribute pairs of shoes as a statement that they remain ever visible to us all.”Dr Paola Magni
Dr Magni hopes Red Shoes Australia will also shine a light on the role WA institutions play in delivering progressive research to improve investigations into cases of gender-based violence and has partnered with the WA Branch of the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society to host a symposium to coincide with the installation.
“More public awareness combined with exciting advances in forensic investigation techniques and technology are vital to bringing about change and improved justice outcomes for victims and their families,” she said.
The installation will launch at WA Museum Boola Bardip on Sunday 27 November 2022.
*Australian Criminal Intelligence National Homicide Monitoring Program – 2015 to 2020.
If this topic has caused you any feelings and if you need to speak with someone, help is available by calling 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault) and Lifeline (13 11 14), for anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide.
Red shoes for the installation can be dropped off at Murdoch University’s Murdoch and Mandurah campus libraries.
For other collection points and to get behind Red Shoes Australia, visit redshoesaustralia.com.au or @redshoesaustralia on Instagram.