Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Making the Personal Political: Anti Street Harassment Week

Trinidad Submissions

Reblog from: http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/2012/03/trinidad/

Editor’s Note: Today in Washington, DC, I’m co-curating an art exhibit on street harassment for International Anti-Street Harassment Week with the Deaf Abused Women’s Network. There are 35 pieces, including art work by high school students and from activists as far away as Yemen and Afghanistan. Tracey Chan and Stephanie Leitch each submitted work electronically for the exhibit. They guest wrote this post about their submissions.

My name is Tracey Chan and I’m a Trinidadian interdisciplinary visual artist and writer whose disciplines include drawing, illustration, and installation. I’m also involved in graphic design and art event management.

In 2011, I created an illustration as part of Simona Lee’s WomenSpeak project. I created an updated version called “Eyes” for this exhibition, which examines the daily challenges women face on the street and the negative feelings that arise with harassment incidents. It also represents my feelings of insecurity, and a stigma attached to simply walking around my own neighbourhood.

My latest project, with my art collective is an all women’s exhibition, Women Make Art: Home & Away (WOMA). WOMA 2011 celebrated International Women’s Day and was the first women’s art exhibition in Grenada. The current show, now in its second year, opens on 31st March in St. George’s, Grenada.

My name is Stephanie Leitch and I’m a social activist and conceptual artist. My work focuses on issues of gender equality both through performance and organizing. My 2011 International Women’s Day event evolved into an ongoing space for Caribbean feminist voices, WoMantra and the place where the collaboration for this project was hatched.

Even though I got word of this project only two or three days before the deadline, it hit way too close to home for me to ignore. I have been dealing with public harassment since I was 12 years old and still in my primary school uniform. I remember a friend telling me once that she would no longer walk in the street with me because of how much attention I would get all the time. This is not a point of pride or ego booster but a sick social practice that I have had to endure for more than half my life. It has affected me deeply in many ways, from valuing it in earlier years to despising it and as a response changing aspects of my aesthetic to detract male attention. Some of these methods have stayed with me, most noticeably my decision to never wear my hair down.

The collaborative series was created when Stephanie requested help to put several of her ideas and tags into visual format for the exhibition. Tracey then designed an image using one tag, “Encourage Women to Speak Out,” using bright colours and minimalist design to attract attention with the simple, powerful message. We will develop a series of posters from the remaining tags that may be used in future events or projects.