February 22, 2017

Putting feminist artivism in the spotlight

On March 8th, International Women’s Day, Mama Cash is organizing ‘Meer Dan Muze’ (‘More Than a Muse’) to recognize and celebrate the work of female artists of all backgrounds and disciplines.

Throughout the Netherlands, there will be performances, readings, film screenings and exhibitions featuring the work of creative women. Join a guided tour of Stéphanie Solinas’s work on gender identity in France in Foam Photography Museum, catch a screening of Facing Mirrors – the first Iranian film with a transgender leading character – in Huis De Pinto, or experience spoken word in the Oostblok theater. There’s much more to discover and truly something for everyone – see for yourself on the Meer Dan Muze website.

We call this campaign ‘Meer Dan Muze’ because our goal is to show not just the quantity but the quality and diversity of art made by women in a world that continues to relegate them to the role of ‘muse.’ And we believe that the particular obstacles that female artists (aspiring or established) face have consequences not just for those individuals, but for society at large.

With ‘Meer Dan Muze’ we hope to emphasize, more broadly, the importance of allocating resources to art-based projects and organizations, especially those also focused on women’s rights. When creative expression has a political intention, ‘artivism’ emerges. Artivism allow us to imagine a different world, and in this process women reclaim those spaces where (oppressive) norms are produced. Making art, then, is not only about individual transformation or expression, but also sparking dialogues that can ultimately reshape culture. Art, in all its many forms, is a way we can communicate across differences.

Unfortunately, this kind of work already receives little funding within ever-shrinking space for civil society. Because art-focused political projects tend to be long-term, the impact of ‘artivism’ is rarely immediate and often hard to measure. But this element of sustainability – working to change a culture from within – is exactly what makes artivism so important. It is also literally sustaining: because art often uses humor, parody, and, of course, beauty, ‘artivism’ can also be a source of hope, courage and strength for those in difficult circumstances, and helps feminist activists to continue their work.

In the run-up to March 8th, we’ll be sharing the work of Mama Cash grantees practicing ‘artivism.’ What they do, and how they do it, illustrates the importance of funding for art-focused women’s organizations. AFRA Kenya, the BuSSy Project, and Aireana are three groups in very different contexts, who do their work differently and towards different goals, but artivism is what they have in common. In their own way, each group shows that that the line between art and activism was blurred from the start.

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