Posted by De.B. Dubois
On the 11th of every month, like clockwork, a group of women from Switzerland meet at Ort 4 Art’s atelier at Basel-Gundeldingen. Organised by a coalition of women artists from North-Western Switzerland, called Sister Fusion, this group initiates a conversation about womanhood through art. Ort 4 Art and Sister Fusion believe that art speaks the language of the heart.
In traditional societies, art has been a medium of expression through application of creative skills (typically in visual forms such as painting, embroidery or sculpture), transforming narratives into aesthetics, appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. However, without widespread practices of these traditional art forms made popular through social interactions – these motifs would have never become a powerhouse of hidden symbolism and secret messages.
When we socially interact with another person, we use our visual system to recognise their sentiments, auditory system to process their speech, and memory systems to make sense of what is being said or felt, and thus what is to be expected next. Be it through verbal or visual communication, there is a conversation in any sort of social interaction.
Now imagine that these social interactions are taking place between women of traditional societies. Their conversations are made over embroidery, pottery, cloth making, mask making, painting objects and even cooking. In such moments, vast amounts of information get exchanged, some of which are regarded as secrets.
Sister Fusion presented their project Water, Women and the Arts (or WWA), to the World Water Forum 8, held between 18th till 23rd of March, in Brazil this year.
Organised by students, seasoned artists and activists from The Basel School of Design’s Institute of Kunst (art), HyperWerk (post-industrial design) and Masterstudio (integrative design), Sister Fusion welcomes women of all ages, professions, sexual orientation, religion and nationality; all who are interested in discussing and exploring what it means to be a complete woman in today’s society.
These women get together and converse through creativity. Engaging through doing – a participatory aspect of performance art. Using this tactic, and looking into the human conditions through a visual-sociological lens, Sister Fusion is starting new conversations regarding women’s empowerment. By applying visual aesthetic techniques, this group of artists and activists are spreading awareness about the scarcity of clean drinking water in affected areas through their project WWA.
One can only relate to the empowering similarity between women and water, – a similarity that has more roots than cultural. Be it a biblical account of a “weaker” vessel or mythical “pure and tamed” goddess – allegories of water and women are forever intertwined. This innovative project triggers association by storytelling through a video art installation, and outlining the visual memory of creating crafts related to the topic of women and water, – such as handmade installation using ceramics.
The project powerfully establishes some of the key aspects of remembrance through performance. Fitting to a cultural visual theme, the project encourages social interaction, inspiring participants to create vases or vessels, symbolising women. Thus linking water and women through art.
Furthermore, bagging on individual perception and knowledge retained from subjective individual experiences, women understand their value by connecting emotionally and factually to their worth. Also, as a side effect, healing through art by releasing everyday pressure helps women cope with daily aggressions and frustrations at work or often hushed up domestic violence, as well as symbolic violence experienced through patriarchal culture, language, media and society.
Through visual identification, this women’s coalition is creating an art experience, which would leave the participants of their WWA workshops with a healthy understanding of women and water situations. Their goal is to show water problems and women in regards to it.
This is not only to help people understand the trauma, pain, aggression and violence against women, that can be caused due to the lack of clean drinking water; but it is also bringing awareness about the aggressive way in which our natural sources of clean drinking water are getting sparse due to pollution and global warming. Through subconscious artistic expression, Sister Fusion is engaging people in new conversations, about effects and affects of mentality towards women and water.
This young dynamic group of bi-national and/or multicultural Swiss women are here to stay and be a part of your cultural storytelling process. As Sister Fusion puts it: “Your life’s experience, your nationality, your religion, your culture, and your feminism has made you into a woman with knowledge, strength and creativity. Come share and celebrate with us this sisterhood and re-affirm or discover your “hidden” talents, intuitions and creativity. Together we produce energy and knowledge that enable us individuals to follow our dreams and embrace our womanhood”.
Finally, after Brazil, these women will be present at World Water Week in Stockholm, for their project 4 Days of Art, where Sister Fusion will keep on using creativity to start conversations on societal issues.
Debolina is an Indian-born-Swiss visual artist and feminist writer. She enjoys extensive reading and research-oriented argumentations. She also enjoys long walks through nature trails, a good glass of absinthe from Val-de-Travers, and creating visual art. Her latest book can be found here and here. She can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.