Alessia Rollo © 2021
“Oh Woman, i don’t understand you” is an ongoing project that analyse how information’s are shared and the role of females in coding and decoding them during the history.
The project started with a personal wariness: the 4th of November 2020 in Ethiopia started an ongoing crisis between the federal government and the semi-autonomous Tigray region led by Tplf. Tigray communication system and internet were cut off.
Kenaw, a friend of mine, he is just living at this region border. I was worried for him when the war in Tigray started: he was very troubled too. We thought that work together was a good solution to speak about stories and histories.
The towers that appear in the video are real, historical places used as defence and communication system in the XIV century in Apulia. I have staged the scenes to stress the impossibility to communicate and inform due the internet lockdown in Tigray. I felt myself as a relay.
The texts are Kenaw diary’s written in between November and December 2020.
I add to this work an investigation about the stories of women that create codes, worked activly in diffuse secret messages, invented machines to crypt them.
History as photography has been told mostly by men point of you.
How it would look like if were women to do it?
Phyllis Latour Doyle was a 23-year-old British secret agent: she was parachuted into occupied Normandy to gather intelligence on Nazi positions in preparation for D-Day. As an agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), Doyle secretly relayed 135 coded messages to the British military before France’s liberation in August. She took advantage of the fact that the Nazi occupiers and their French collaborators were generally less suspicious of women, using the knitting she carried as a way to hide her codes.
I encoded a message from Kenaw diary, “They plan to distroy the strategic place like a camp” using morse code Phyllis used for hidding secret messages.
Crypted images of snipers in Ethiopia sent to me by Kenaw in November 2020. I used a crypted computer method inspared to the work of Ann Caracristy an American cryptanalyst. She was credited with providing leadership for new generations of code breakers and integrating the use computers and technology.
Josephine Baker was an American-born French entertainer, French Resistance agent during the second World War
As an artist, Baker had an excuse for moving around Europe, she collected what information she could about German troop locations from officials she met at parties. She specialized in gatherings at embassies and ministries, charming people as she had always done, while gathering information. She carried information for transmission to England, about airfields, harbors, and German troop concentrations in the West of France. Notes were written in invisible ink on Baker’s sheet music.
I encryped a message from Kenaw’s diary on a music sheet. It’s witten with invisible ink “my sister come to Lalibela after a long time”
Luisa Zeni was an italian spy during who operate for the italian indipendency during the First World war. Due to her knowledge of the German language and of the Trentino, in the weeks following her arrival Zeni gathered information, which she noted down in minuscule papers that she later hid in the buttons of her coat.
I used a monoalphabetic cipher, (a code that combine letters and numers), used during that time to encrypt a message from Kenaw’s diary: “I fear for the future of my country”
Encrypted text “We need peace and unify in between the regions” from Kenaw’s diary using the Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum.
This radio guidance system was invented by Hedy Lamarr, actric and inventor born in Austia who flee to United Stated because her jewish origin.
Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum
is a method of transmitting radio signals by rapidly changing the carrier frequency among many distinct frequencies occupying a large spectral band. The changes are controlled by a code known to both transmitter and receiver. FHSS is used to avoid interference, to prevent eavesdropping, and to enable code-division multiple access communications.
Virginia Hall was a spy of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), who gave her extensive training in clandestine tradecraft, communications, weapons, and other resistance activities. She spent 13 months in France in 1941-42, organizing spy networks, running safehouses, and delivering important intelligence to the British government – all while staying one step ahead of the Gestapo, who called her “The Limping Lady. for her wood leg.
I encripted a sentence from Kenaw diary “The soldier are silent, do not speak to anyone” using “Caesar cipher”, a encoding method invented by Julius Cesar:It is a type of substitution cipher in which each letter in the plaintext is replaced by a letter some fixed number of positions down the alphabet. I nthis case the 3th according to the alphabeth order.
Yoshiro Kawashima was a Qing dynasty princess of Manchu descent. She was raised in Japan and served as a spy for the Japanese Kwantung Army and Manchukuo during the Second Sino-Japanese War. She undertook undercover missions in Manchuria, often in disguise, and was considered “strikingly attractive, with a dominating personality, almost a film-drama figure, half tom-boy and half heroine, and with a passion for dressing up as a male. She possibly did this in order to impress the men, or she may have done it in order to more easily fit into the tightly-knit guerrilla groups without attracting too much attention”.