On Day 2 of the 16 Days of action against gender-based violence Campaign, we gathered at Edinburgh University College of Art with Naomi Smith and some of her fellow University of Edinburgh students, Katherine Dalton, Hazel Steven, Louise Mamey, Allie Haddlesey, and Gavin Gillon.
Campaign Organiser Niharika (Nika) Puri started off the event with a heartfelt talk about her own artistic journey and experience as curator of an art gallery in India. Art, in all it’s forms are very near and dear to Nika’s heart and she ensured we all understood her dedication to the practice of self-expression through artistic mediums.
After Nika’s introduction, Naomi recounted her story as a young mother as well as spoke about the importance of speaking out against GBV and always hoping for a better, safer world for women and girls.
Naomi then led the group to her oversized poncho depicting floral patterns in the shape of a uterus. She explained the significance of the different mediums she used, such as the blanket stitch, to adorn the neckline of the poncho, which represents the swaddling of her young child.
Next, her fellow Textiles student Katherine presented her beautiful printed feminist textiles – developed through digital and screen print. Through these Katherine creates empowering textile work that she hopes will inspire other women. For example, she created a piece which featured themes around the worldwide Slut Walks, to provoke a dialogue about rape and consent. She also introduced her Femme Fatale collection which combined two very different types of imagery such as tampons, pads, and birth control with guns and weaponry. Such juxtaposition causes the viewer to perhaps (re)think about danger, power, taboos, and why we hold the perceptions we do about women and their reproductive functions.
After Katherine, Hazel presented her fabrics which centred around the theme of hidden sexuality. For example, she utilised translucent sequins on floral backgrounds to spell out declarations of sexual orientation such as: ‘Don’t presume I’m straight’. It was a poignant metaphor for the experience of LGBTQ people and their need to hide their sexual orientation in order to cater to the comforts of society as well as protect themselves.
Next, Allie followed with a moving story about her adoption at a young age and how her loving parents impressed the importance of understanding that her gender should never hold her back – that her gender doesn’t matter. That said, as she grew older she encountered damaging experiences that occurred largely because she was a female. One such example was her experience modelling – Allie said it was sometimes difficult to be a model because there was a lot of pressure on her and other girls to be a certain size and fit a certain mould of beauty. Allie showed us her photo project (that she funded with her own money) which features males and females with body paint in the shape of hand prints all over their body. These hand prints are meant to represent sexual assault and mirror the places on the body where this violence occurs. The images were stirring and incredibly impactful.
Lastly, Gavin showcased his mixed media art pieces which illustrated gender-based violence around the world. He utilised fall tones to indicate the painful transitional phases that all GBV survivors must endure, as well as themes of peace, brokenness, and redemption. We were all moved by his artwork and delighted to see a man’s voice join in the revolt against gender-based violence.
After these presentations were over we all took part in a workshop where we traced our hands and filled them in with hopes, dreams, pain, memories, or any variety of things that we felt the need to express in those moments. At the closing ceremony, these drawings will be transferred onto textiles and displayed.
Angela closed out the event by talking a bit about how art has helped her channel painful experiences that have occurred within her own life. We all felt the healing power of art during Day 2 of this Campaign. Thank you to Naomi and all the artists that accompanied her – you made this day possible.
Photographer: Olga Tyukova