Words and photos by Jenni Mazaraki
I’ve been thinking about voice and what it means to use it.
Some people speak easily, their words falling from their mouths quicker than their thoughts. These are the sort of people who are good to have around to fill awkward silences at parties and work functions. Then there are others whose minds race a million miles a minute and the words get so jammed up behind their tongue that sentences come out like a traffic jam of staccato noise.
We doubt when to speak, we attach value to the right to speak. But we all have a right to be heard. As long as it’s not hate speech used to silence others, speaking up is intrinsic to changing any cultural norm.
I wrote this a while ago and it still resonates with me (yes, I’m quoting myself):
“Speak your truth, because if you don’t use your voice in the way you’re meant to, your words will spill out regardless. Perhaps not in the way you planned. The words you’ve squashed down with your doubt and worry will instead drop from your mouth and fall to the ground with a thud in places where they are not intended – at work, or at pilates, or at your child’s playgroup. Unspoken words will fill you and fill you up until you are so filled with chatter that you can’t even think straight.
Be brave enough to risk rejection, embarrassment and defeat. Not everyone will like what you have to say, but it is your truth, your words and you have a right to be heard. Speak now.”
The mural by street artist Lucy Lucy painted on the side wall of Women’s Health in the North in Thornbury, Melbourne has a clear message about what the organisation stands for.
Two women are depicted in towering form declaring that we have a voice, choice and power in what happens to our lives and our bodies. To stand in front of this artwork is awe inspiring. It makes you look up and pause, even if you’ve walked past it before.
At the Making Space for Women forum held by Women’s Health in the North late last year, Sally Northfield and Danielle Hakim from the Women’s Art Register described the way that a significant women’s mural had been defaced. From Bomboniere to Barbed Wire, created by artists Megan Evans and Eve Glenn in 1986 depicted women in their everyday lives and had been defaced beyond repair by a graffiti tagger in February 2016.
The mural was significant in that it depicted women in realistic ways, caring for children, at work and participating in their lives. It counteracted the unrealistic and negative advertising images of women as seen in the 1980’s.
The Women’s Art Register encourage the community to engage in a discussion about the significance of this mural and invite community members to assist them to document the historical significance of the artwork by contacting them with any photos or memories they have related to the mural.
The Women’s Art Register have also put a call out to women to find art work in Melbourne’s public spaces that depict women positively and submit them as part of the In Your Space project. The purpose is to increase a sense of inclusion and participation in public life by counteracting negative images of women as seen in public spaces.
The Women’s Art Register are also encouraging artists to create public art that portrays women in positive ways. I may or may not have contributed something small to express my feelings about the defacement of the mural and my reaction to negative portrayals of women in advertising with this image of someone who knows the value of saying no.
In her book, Speaking Out, author Tara Moss also has a brilliant call out to women. She encourages women to speak out about things that matter in ways that ring true for us. She said,
“Speak out and keep speaking out, whether it is through speeches, journalism, blogs, opinion pieces, teaching, storytelling, art, political action or all of the above. Find your way and don’t be silenced. Your voice matters. We need you.”
Art has the power to influence and reassure. It has the potential to spark ideas and change cultural expectations. Use your voice to say what you need to. Make art.
For more info see the website, Facebook and Instagram for the Women’s Mural Documentation Project facilitated by the Women’s Art Register.
(Feature image by artist Lucy Lucy.)