Along with several other artists my print for Al Mutanabbi Street (Absence and Presence) has been selected for an exhibition at San Francisco Centre for the Book next month.
'Masculinity is a hard, small cage and we put boys inside this cage'. Chimamanda Adichie: Why we should all be feminist (adapted from her talk of the same name at TEDxEUSTON)
From when they are very young, boys, and then men, are told to be strong; not to cry, to put on a brave face. Men are taught that their value lies in their strength, their ability to protect and to provide. Men are supposed to have 'balls of steel'. In the past these values - the model that our society was built upon - were upheld even more strongly than they still are today. Yes, things are changing, but slowly and until men can be truly vulnerable and not be called a 'pussy' or a 'girl' (as if that is a bad thing!) and women can be strong leaders and not be called bossy (something almost never said to boys) then it is detrimental to everyone.To me, feminism is synonymous with equality and I want to help everyone to break free of this cage. We need to all, really and truly be feminists, if we are going to reach that goal.
Again, to quote Chimamanda Adichie 'Yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.'
With your balls of steel.
With your balls of steel.
They look heavy -
Let me help you,
set them down.
I'll carry them,
we can share.
might just be
But our pussies...are diamond.
In June I spoke at the TEDx SWPS. It was terrifying, exciting and the thing I am most proud of in my life so far.
Free Speech is a live debate show where young people get the chance to speak up about the big issues we are facing today and last night I was in the audience. The panel was made up of Mobeen Azhar, Nelufar Hedayat, Lisa Nandy, James Delingpole and Rehman Christi and they were mainly discussing Islamic Extremism.
Watch the whole program (and see glimpses of my face) on iplayer.
I couldn’t wait to start my periods, I think I had some idea that once I started I would suddenly feel older, know what I was doing and have all the confidence. Of course, I was wrong! But family did do a wonderful job of celebrating me and the woman I was becoming.
The day I started my Dad made a special playlist of all the songs he could find containing the word ‘woman’...he played it non-stop for several hours, I’m sure at the time it was a little embarrassing, but when I remember it now it makes me feel so happy and loved and accepted.
Later, my Mum and I had a special evening together, Mum lit red candles, we ate dark chocolate (a necessity for periods, she said) and I was presented with a beautiful dark red box. My parents had placed in it a beautiful blood red necklace as well as small presents and cards from all the most important women in my life. I received things from my grandmothers, aunts, cousins and family friends.
The women gave me their memories, advice, poems, stories, love, special books, a leaf that had never touched the ground, a handmade pouch for carrying my sanitary pads...
I was welcomed into a warm circle of women who had loved me my whole life and who were promising to keep loving me as I grew. It was perfect.
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I went to see the exhibition Disobedient Objects at the V&A. It is a collection of art works made about or during protest.
My work is questioning equality. Feminist equality. Disability equality. Racial equality. Equality. I suppose a lot of my work is protesting the status quo and attempting to change something that I seem within society.
When going to art galleries I often ignore the older, more historical galleries in favour of smaller galleries showing younger, modern artists. I went to London last week with the plan to visit the National Portrait Gallery (for the Grayson Perry ‘Who Are You?’) followed by several much smaller exhibitions. However, it struck me while walking around Trafalgar Square that the old, big galleries are the ones that everyone visits. The people who don’t know about art, who are not fans of art. These old galleries have become tourist attractions and because of that I decided to go in.
I am interested in how art can be made more inclusive and how people who have very little knowledge or experience of art can be encouraged to enjoy it. While walking around the National Gallery I started to see that maybe that is a misguided idea. Of course, I still want my work to be something that anyone, from any walk of life could enjoy...I’m just starting to see that it isn’t always possible, or even important for everyone to see and enjoy a piece.
We are familiar with old art. We know and understand it and it has become a part of our mainstream collective culture. At the time they were made, the paintings in the gallery would have had many critics and often been shocking to their audience. It is often only with hindsight and once something has become the ‘norm’ that many people will enjoy a piece. In the book 'Playing to the Gallery' Grayson Perry explains a psychology study by James Cutting. In a series of experiments using photographs of impressionist paintings he found his subjects preferred the ones they had been exposed to more regularly.' The National Gallery has several extremely famous paintings, including Monet's Water Lilies and Van Gogh's Sunflowers. In the rooms where these were displayed there were many other beautiful and accomplished paintings, yet in both cases the majority of the visitors in the room chose to crowd around the painting that they were more familiar with.
I have often made grand, sweeping statements to the effect of ‘I don’t like these old, religious and historical paintings.’ It shouldn’t really be a case of whether I like them or not, they are an extremely important part of art history and I need to be aware of them and how they have shaped the art world that I am making my work in. As I spent a couple of hours wandering around the gallery I started to see paintings that I liked, ones that caught my eye and I wanted to keep looking at.
Maybe one day, someone who once said 'I don't like that contemporary art' will look at a piece of my work and it will finally speak to them.
I am a feminist. Does that make everything I do a piece of feminist art?
One of my foam drawings looks a lot like the X-factor sign; it has been pointed out to me several times. Initially I was going to do something with it so that it no longer looked like the X-factor. However. Then I had a conversation with my Mum about how sexist the show is... and then I had a seminar in which the above question was posed. So I decided to make the drawing into a quick piece of feminist art about the sexism of the X-factor.
A part of my struggle with what I am doing at the moment is a pressure (from myself) to make 'good' art. I have all these criteria that I am forcing onto my work and it is making me feel very stressed and overwhelmed...so I decided to continue with my just make something philosophy and make some BAD ART. I have made a small version of a much bigger sculpture I am planning...