Street Art Intervention #1 Alice Against FGM
It was 2015 I was so happy to be part of the second Femme Fierce which was the first time I decided to create a street-art piece with a political aim. It always such a wonderful privilege to paint with so many other talented women artists during a jam, but this was at the time, the world’s largest all-girl street art festival. This single experience has had such a positive and longlasting effect on me, and started me on a journey to many opportunities to speak about this artwork.
My idea was to subvert the classic Lewis Carol/Disney character who is in her 150th year (2015) and bring her into a twenty-first century setting in order to hammer home a point about extreme gender based violence towards young girls.
This message has been spread far & wide and in Feburary 2016 I visited Vienna to make a press presentation with Petra Bayr MP to talk about how street art can make social change in context of FGM.
The thinking behind the concept.
This intervention created as a response to gender inequality is an Alice in Wonderland mural in Leake St Tunnel (affectionately known as Banksy Tunnel.) This creative space is completely legal and the walls are a constantly changing canvas which is what makes it a huge tourist attraction. The idea behind my art was to highlight an issue surrounding violence to young girls through Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during Femme Fierce 2015. Femme Fierce is the world’s largest all female paint festival and each year a new charity or NGO is featured and promoted during International Women’s Day. This year the chosen charity was Plan UK and the campaign we were highlighting is “because I am a girl.” This campaign focusses on the issues of FGM and forced child marriage. I chose Alice as she represents the archetypal yet stereotypical British girl at the age that young girls are most at risk of this procedure. I was using a statistic for here in the UK, and wanted to put that into perspective. By representing this young blond haired, blue eyed girl holding back a curtain with a sinister hidden message, I aimed to draw attention to the fact that mainstream media coverage in general does not prioritise cases of atrocity and violence that are happening in the heart of our communities, and even less so when we don’t feel that it has anything to do with our idea of “Britishness.” When we look at the government statistics we see that indeed this is a very British problem with 65,000 girls at risk per year in the UK alone.
For more information on Plan UK Charity’s campaign, “Because I am a Girl.”
Although the artworks of the 150 female artists began to be obliterated by other street artists almost immediately, the impact of my piece of art continues though many international blogs, press reviews and the charity itself. This single art intervention although transient was viewed on the day by over 10,000 visitors and the total reach is estimated to be ten fold due to the publicity and media surrounding the event. This has created a legacy for this particular street art intervention. The wider impact is to bring the issue to a new audience, on site and via social media. These conversations that were started in the Banksy tunnel were a platform for discussion and engagement with a group of people (mostly men) who may not have otherwise engaged with the issue. This is why the medium of street art is a powerful one. I feel this art-medium enabled me to bring a voice to an unknown subject making it easily accessible to everyone. I was invited back to Leake Street to recreate Alice for a theatrical production “Alice Underground,” which runs through to August 2015 recently, which enabled the message in my artwork to continue. Also the work was acknowledged by one of the judges, Victoria Pearce, an agent for Illustration Web who wrote, “..how much I liked your artwork and idea and I put it forward to the panel of judges as my selection for the winner. I particularly liked the fact that you had incorporated a message in your artwork & a strong one at that, so appropriate to it having been International Women’s Day.”
Ayaan Bulale, Femme Fierce Founder says, “Femme Fierce is the world’s largest street art festival and SOS is one of the artists who created a truly outstanding piece on the day. She created a mural depicting Alice in Wonderland peeking out in horror from behind a curtain embroidered with scissors and roses to raise awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as we were supporting Plan UK’s campaign to eradicate this horrible practice. SOS’s mural has become the talking piece as its use of an innocent character such as Alice to highlight such an evil practice is a stark contrast to how and what we normally associate Alice with.“
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