The Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula exhibition at the Kimmel Galleries in NYC has been extended through December this year! I am delighted of course and this is great news as it will allow the exhibition to reach a bigger audience and continue the good work in raising awareness and increasing understanding of the experience of fistula. The reaction to the show up to now has been really encouraging…below is a comment on progress from sponsors and organisers, the Kupona Foundation.
To see a slide show of the work in the exhibition check out the dedicated page on this site.
So far, the exhibition has raised over $26,000 in support and sponsorship as we fight to end fistula within a generation. It has also triggered multiple conversations with potential new partners. Our Twitter chat the day of the launch made over 3 million impressions, and our efforts to publicize the exhibition continue. We have been thrilled by the response, and are so grateful for support from the artist, Jac Saorsa, and our sponsors Johnson & Johnson, Fistula Foundation, the UNFPA-led Campaign to End Fistula and New York University’s Kimmel Center and College of Global Public Health.
The Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula 2016 exhibition is now open!
I am in New York, the work is hung, and I am preparing for the launch night – it kicks off at 7pm tonight and we are looking forward to a great evening. Being back in the city is strange for me as it harbours many memories. I lived here while studying at the New York Academy… it has been an emotional few days for very many reasons and on very many levels.
I will post images of the whole show, and of tonight’s event, once I get back to the UK…in the meantime here is a ‘teaser shot’ shot of part of the show on the wall at the Kimmel gallery.
My grateful thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to help me realise this exhibition
The first drawing class at Mabinti was yesterday and was a great success. It felt so good to be back with the women again especially as they were now so much more confident. The feeling at Mabinti is so very different from that at the CCBRT Fistula clinic. The women seem to have regained their sense of self, and the sadness, though still there, seems to have lifted out of the despair that always lurked in the shadows of themselves.
I am working with half the group of trainees this week and with the other half next week. With such a small group – only five women – it is easier to get to know the individual personalities. This time the smiles are genuine and happy, they no longer lower their eyes and we are equals – as it should be!
The first lesson is about pattern and colour. The thick book full of pattern examples is eagerly accepted and pored over. I show them the colour wheel, I teach them ‘first’ colours and ‘second’ colours. I continuously use my Swahili dictionary and my phrase book to try to smatter my explanations with nouns and adverbs of their own language. I wanted to show respect and they joined in the struggle with much laughter and giggling as I stumbled through colours – ‘rangi’ – and the relation between hot (‘johto’) and cold (‘baridi’). They had fun and so …so very much…did I.
The images below are examples of the work done by the women.
The next lesson today was about drawing and decorating feet (mgoo). Much laughter accompanied the drawing around of each others feet and once everybody had their two feet outlined on the page they began to decorate one with ‘hot’ colours and one with ‘cold’. Inevitably hands were next and the designs became increasingly complex. The remainder of the session – which continued for over three hours – was taken up by my demonstrating the difference between shape and form and how to ‘construct’ a convincing three-dimensional bottle on the page. All this was obediently copied but it wasn’t long before I was showing them how to draw far more interesting things – a zebra for example, a giraffe, and of course an elephant. The women just love copying and multi-coloured elephants soon presided over boring wine bottles!!
Lunch was a deep pleasure. I ate together with the whole group, shoulder to shoulder at makeshift tables in the sunshine. We ate rice from plastic boxes ordered in as every day from a local café. I was the only one eating with a spoon, which had been politely and thoughtfully provided for me. I had been prepared to eat with my fingers as everybody else did but I have to admit I was secretly relieved! I felt warmly accepted, I felt real and full of life. I felt as if I was close to something – a way of being – that has become unreachable in the western society to which I am more accustomed.
I teach in the mornings and I focus on my own work in the afternoons. The following images are some of the sketches I’ve made in the last couple of days. Together with photographs I am taking they will provide a basis for studio work when I get home.
She looks tiny. Very young
as she lay covered in the rough cotton sheet
one thin arm visible
the sole of a foot
under the window
through which the soft, warm breeze is blowing.
A woman comes
brings her food and wakes her.
She is tiny. But not young.
Drenched in urine
the pale blue gown is soaked through.
The woman who has come helps her up
and she follows
out of the ward.
As she passes she glances at me
an old face, careworn
full of emotional pain
all defiance gone
all defences down.
She glances at me but only for a second
before she lowers her eyes.
Urine runs down her legs.
She looks tiny.