On two walls in Istanbul’s Kabataş neighbourhood, 440 pairs of high-heel shoes hang, each representing a woman’s life lost at the hands of her husband.

Turkish artist Vahit Tuna worked on this unique project for Yanköşe, a not-for-profit art platform founded in 2017 by Turkish coffee chain Kahve Dünyası. The walls used for the art installations belong to one of their branches in one of the busiest districts in Istanbul, Beyoğlu.

In 2018, 440 women were killed by their partners, according to ‘We Will Stop Femicide’, a Turkish organisation that keeps count of femicides across the country. The number has been increasing annually, raising concerns among many women-focused organisations around the country.

Photo courtesy of EPA/Getty.

Tuna chose shoes to represent the lives lost due to domestic violence because of a customary Turkish tradition where people leave the shoes of a loved one who’s passed away outside of their home as a way to keep another resident of the house from dying.

He chose high-heels specifically for what they signify to him – a symbol of power, defiance and independence. The view of the walls towering above the street with the shoes glued to them is a haunting and harrowing reminder of domestic abuse, an infamously private and secret phenomenon. Usually kept behind closed doors, this reminder is placed jarringly in the centre of a public space, made to become part of people’s every day.

The installation will be kept up on the walls for 6 months.