Art can be an effective healing tool and resource for survivors of Violence Against Women (VAW) who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and other disorders due to the impact to one’s mental and emotional health from the violence. The creation of art acts as a catalyst to transform pain and negative experiences to healing and growth.
Art as a voice for activism is a natural progression because art as a healing tool is integrally linked to advocacy. Art is at once personal and universal. The emotional impact of art as a language crosses cultural lines, economic lines, and social lines. Art brings intensity to activism as it brings the survivors’ individual lived experience to the global eye. Artistic expression via the visual arts such as paintings, murals, photography, street graffiti and comics; as well as more tactile forms of the arts including fashion, sculptures, quilting, and pottery is a universal language understood by all and one of the earliest forms of communication to inform, educate, and communicate.
These 16 artists and art groups from all over the world work singularly or join forces to create and use art as an activism tool to end the silence about VAW and raise awareness. It is their lived experiences of violence and the global movement to end VAW that unites and inspires them. We hope that these 16 artists and their initiatives will engage you and inspire you to share and expand your own artistic ventures to join the global conversation to end VAW.
– Written and compiled by Carol Olson; Additional research and material by Samantha Carroll and Jennifer Gallienne.
Art Against VAW #1: Alejandra Adorno Menduiña, Stand Up for Women’s Rights Now – Global
Stand Up for Women’s Rights Now: Stop Violence Against Women is an international touring exhibition which challenges conventional attitudes towards violence against women. The brainchild of Argentinian artist Alejandra Adorno Menduiña, it began its worldwide journey with an extensive tour of Latin America. The exhibition includes works from France, Germany, Iran, Syria and Taiwan and has also toured Turkey, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Italy and Argentina.
Art Against VAW #2: A Long Walk Home: Arts, Activism, Advocacy – United States of America
Founded in 2003, A Long Walk Home, Inc. (ALWH) is a 501(c)3 non-profit that uses art therapy and the visual and performing arts to end violence against girls and women. ALWH features the testimonies and art by survivors and their allies in order to provide safe and entertaining forums through which the public can learn about healing from and preventing gender-based violence.
Candi Castleberry Singleton has recruited more than 90 volunteers to design and create a ceramic quilt to increase awareness of violence against women, called the Dignity and Respect Campaign. “You will see a variety of tiles but combined they make a statement that we wanted to make the women in the shelter know that we care and this would serve as a permanent reminder that we care,” says campaign founder Candi Castleberry Singleton. Singleton says a goal of the awareness initiative is personal safety. “Whether it’s feeling safe with someone they’re living with, whether it’s feeling safe with someone they’re working with, I think the most important thing is for people to know where to go to get resources before they actually need them.”
Art Against VAW #4: Charlotte Farhan, Art to End the Silence on Rape – France and England
Charlotte Farhan has always been artistic and spent her childhood being encouraged to pursue her artistic nature, with dual nationality between France and Britain and growing up between Paris and within an hour of London. Charlotte wants to inspire and wants to continue building her career as an artist. Hoping to break boundaries within society and the art world whilst helping raise awareness for certain causes. Her most recent art is to raise awareness to end the silence about rape.
Art Against VAW #5: Comics with a Cause – Canada
The Comics with a Cause campaign was started to escalate awareness of sexual assault and violence through a new comic called BRANDED. Writer Rodrigo Caballero wanted to abolish the stereotype that comic books are made “by men for boys”. Caballero’s comic focuses on a character named the Brander who locates and punishes men who harm women. Caballero stated that he wanted confront abuse of women by exposing cases of violence that happen domestically, in the home.
Art Against VAW #6: Ewa Grochowska, Freedom4Ewa Pottery – United States of America
Ewa Grochowska is an artist and activist working to end violence against women. She is the founder of Freedom4Ewa in which she helps survivors live in love by providing support and donating art supplies. She donates her time and supplies to provide art programmes to children living in domestic violence shelters, and reaches out to the public to share her story of survival to spread awareness. In 2013, she started Freedom4Ewa with a goal to bring domestic violence to extinction.
Art Against VAW #7: Graffiti to Combat Violence Against Women – Brazil
Brazilian street artists used the spotlight of the World Cup to highlight a problem close to home. Special correspondent Sophia Kruz of Detroit Public Television reports on a movement in Brazil to spread awareness of domestic violence through the art of graffiti.
Art Against VAW #8: Hey Baby! Art Opposing Sexual Violence – United States of America
Hey Baby! Art Opposing Sexual Violence is an art workshop and exhibition series to raise awareness of and bring about an end to sexual violence. The Hey Baby! project combines education with art to create interactive exhibitions. The art work can be a lot of different formats, including buttons, patches, zines, and posters. All of the art is replicable, meaning that people can take copies of it with them from the exhibitions.
Art Against #VAW #9: Hilom – The Philippines
Kasibulan, an organisation that uses art to rouse change for women in the Philippines, created Hilom to advocate against violence towards women. Hilom is taking place during the 16 days of activism and features artwork by women for women. Kasibulan, known for its commitment to the arts and using various mediums art as a means of transformation in the lives of Filipino women, hopes to develop a cultural consciousness with their campaign.
Artist Diane Kahlo (a distant descendent of Frida Kahlo), put together an exhibition of painting, sculpture and video entitled Femicide to remind us of the more than 1,000 missing and murdered women of Cuidad Juarez, Mexio. The violence towards women, highlighted in 1993, has reached epidemic levels today. Kahlo’s display included two embellished coffins as well as a wall installation of skulls that represented the bodies of unidentified girls. “Because the feminicide addresses the intersection of gender, race, class and economic status, as well as political and economic dialogue about globalization, human and sex trafficking and drug violence, the exhibition serves as a vehicle to create interdisciplinary dialogue,” said Kahlo.
Art Against VAW #11: Merna Thomas, Shout Art Loud – Egypt
Graffiti artists, cartoonists, dancers and actors are fighting back against rising levels of violence and sexism in the streets of Cairo. “We believe that spreading images, things that people are familiar with, women figures that people know and sayings that people know brings back some positivity about women in general,” says Merna Thomas, co-founder of a graffiti campaign to promote women’s rights in Cairo’s public spaces.
Nizhegorodsky Women’s Crisis Centre is a Russian nonprofit devoted to serving domestic violence victims by incorporating art as a healing and advocacy tool for survivors of domestic violence and children who survive violent homes. Russia is currently in the process of examining the prevalence of domestic violence and the changes needed to improve it’s laws.
Art Against VAW #13: Priya’s Shakti – India
Priya’s Shakti is a comic book with a female rape survivor as its “super hero” that has been launched to focus attention on the problem of sexual violence in India. The comic book is inspired by Hindu mythological tales, tells the story of Priya, a young woman and gang-rape survivor, and Goddess Parvati as they fight against gender crimes in India. Indian-American filmmaker Ram Devineni, one of its creators, said that the 2012 Delhi Gang Rape triggered the idea. People anywhere in the world can download a free digital copy of the comic
Art Against VAW #14: Saint Hoax, Happy Never After – Global
Artist Saint Hoax created a series of Disney Princess posters that encouraged young sexual assault survivors to report their attacks. Following that he used the Disney Princess posters to raise awareness about domestic violence. “As a Middle Eastern artist, I always have the urge to voice out the injustice and inequality that takes place in my region,” Saint Hoax said. “Sadly, the news here is filled with stories of abused housewives, daughters, sisters, mothers.”
Art Against VAW #15: Stop al Femminicidio (Stop Femicide!) – Italy
The Stop al Femminicidio campaign, which took place on International women day, used “Three universes female: art, culture and fashion” as its theme to highlight violence against women. The campaign’s goal was to alter the cultural heritage of abuse and have women reclaim their dignity. Stop al Femminicidio, in collaboration with designer Antonella Fini, was staged in Porto Torres and featured fashion in shades of red. An exhibition of red shoes was placed outside the National Archaeological Museum to draw attention to femicide.
Art Against VAW #16: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Stop Telling Women to Smile – United States of America
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is the woman behind “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” the public art project that is tackling gender-based street harassment in a big way. Through stunning wheat paste portraits and powerful statements like “My outfit is not an invitation” or “Women are not outside for your entertainment,” Fazlalizadeh fearlessly responds to the unsolicited act of cat calling with street art you can’t ignore. “Street harassment is a serious issue that affects women world wide,” Fazlalizadeh writes on her website. “This project takes women’s voices, and faces, and puts them in the street — creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”