Inspired by the metaphor of “women are like water” in Chinese, I further research about the connection between women and water. I found that women in developing countries generally have primary responsibility for collecting and managing water. In another aspect, they also struggle most from the lack of adequate sanitation. This crisis for women can be summed up in dignity and poverty. They cannot attend school and earn an income due to lack of water and privacy sanitation.
Look deep into the “dignity” and “poverty”; there extend another subject that related to water sanitation, which is the menstruation.
Menstruation is a sensitive subject that not to be openly discussing. Due to the taboos that passed on generations, even women will feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and humiliated to mention it. In the fact, menstruation is an essential and biological process that provides reproductive ability.
However, it is treated as taboo in countless cultures and societies across the globe. It is believed that a menstruating woman is impure and dirty. Ironically, most of the people affected were not only from villages but also urban cities. Also, these taboos are passed from mothers to daughters.
A profound silence around the topic with lacking of information results in girls and women possessing a very little understanding of their own bodies. Also, some unequal treatment to menstruating women due to cultural and belief that impact negatively on women and girls’ lives, and reinforce gender inequities and exclusion.
More than 300 million women and girls don’t have access to the hygiene products. They manage their periods by using old rags, leaves, even ash or other unhygienic and ineffective materials, that they extremely prone to reproductive tract infections. These are caused by the matter of dignity, ignorance, taboos and poverty. They are unaffordable to buy sanitary pads since they even cannot earn a living. There are too many issues that related to the social development and mindset which lock women in the suffering of menstruation.
The main idea was developed through the unspoken truth that realistically happens in the other corner of the world. So I want to break the silence on menstruation, spread the fact that there are many menstruating women still suffering even in this era.
It is very hard to change the mindset of community in developing countries since there are involving too many consideration such as taboos, religious beliefs, conservative mindset, and poverty. It is very sensitive also when mentioning religious beliefs that passed on generations. In additional, there are many organizations have taken initiative on the aspect of education by educating the proper health knowledge and distributing certain hygiene products to them.
A Beautiful Mess
A Beautiful Mess is a campaign that aims to break the silence on menstruation and shout out for women that suffering cultural taboo of menstruation from earliest time until now. It aimed to be target females in developed countries. Aiming females who have certain knowledge and rational so that can evoke their consciousness, sympathy, and empathy. Indirectly, this will inspire them to take an initiative of changing the mindset and breaking the taboos. The next action will be lending their powers to help women and girls in developing countries by spreading the message or making a donation to Femme International.
Femme International is the cooperation of A Beautiful Mess campaign, an organization that dedicated to menstrual health and hygiene education by promoting menstrual cups as a sustainable solution to girls and women in developing communities.
Installation | Postcards | Poster
Installation is separated into two parts.
The first part will be allowing visitors to make an origami butterfly. Origami butterfly is made from a square white paper, which representing women, and thus changing the perspective of menstruating women which is being impure and dirty. Butterfly seen as beautiful creatures representing freedom, so same as women, women should respect themselves. The action of folding origami butterfly is to show that they have the decision on who they are.
In the second part will be a 900cm x 300cm (WxH) wall art that lined up with red old rags. Women in developing countries who use old rags during periods give the impression of dirty, unhygienic, and rugged. The old rags are arranged in a hormone-level graph, and the gradient and arrangement of rags are closely linked to the cycle of menstruation. Darker rags are arranged densely during periods. To building up on the layering of information, there are confessions from menstruating women that how they suffered and what they felt in order to put visitors in their shoes.
In this part, visitors will take down the rag and put on their origami butterfly on the wall. This action conveys the idea of breaking the silence and taboos on behalf of those women who are suffering. Eventually, old rags on the wall will be replaced by the origami butterfly and getting lesser and lesser.
(2) Poster (Post-event)
A poster is designed to promote the art installation. By showing the old rag partially, it creates curiosity before visitors manage to get the meaning behind the old rags.
(3) Postcards (Pre-event)
A set includes a card (installation information) and a total of 4 postcards. In order to spread the message broadly, postcards are given to visitors at the end of the installation. For people who never went to the installation will still understand it by reading the confessions on the postcard and all the information of the campaign.
This is my first try on using a hands-on material to create a visual graphic for my design, including paper marbling (which is not included in the final outcome) and dyeing, stamping technique on fabrics. I have spent a lot of time on exploring the hands-on technique instead of digital techniques.
I was struggling in how to show the final display of installation since the textures of the old rags are essential for my project. If there is more time offered to me, I would try to do partially of the actual size of the installation.
In overall, I am quite impressed by myself that I have walked out of my comfort zone with trying something new and I overcame all the struggles. I did learn a lot from this project.
Lim Shiau Kiat