Local Women Artists Combat Violence Through a Movement to Uncover Self-Expression


July 30, 2010

Reference: Irma Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), fire.nyc@gmail.com

Local Women Artists Combat Violence Through a Movement to Uncover Self-Expression

New York, NY – On Thursday, July 29, 2010, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), a grassroots Filipino women’s organization under the GABRIELA USA alliance, held its first gallery opening at Gallery 1199 of SEIU.  The exhibit showcased work produced by various women artists during FiRE’s new five-week art program, Movement to Uncover Self-Expression (MUSE.)  Through the generous support of the Bread and Roses Cultural Project, the MUSE program’s workshops invited women in the local New York metropolitan area from diverse racial, generational, and socioeconomic backgrounds and sexual orientations to discuss female identity and issues faced by women in a safe, nurturing, and creative space.

One hundred friends and family of the MUSE artists, and organizational supporters and allies filled the gallery space throughout the night.  “We really wanted to create a safe space where different women could explore their everyday life through art and I’m glad to see its product tonight in this gallery.  The women artists really connected and opened up dialogue about experiences they share,” said Arlene Rodrigo, Cultural Chair of FiRE and one of the teaching artists of MUSE.  Each week was dedicated to a different medium: collage, drawing, watercolor, poetry, and photography. Workshops were also led by Anna Sian and Sara Jimenez, with a guest appearance by Lolan Buhain Sevilla, all of whom are FiRE members.

Within the five weeks, the MUSE participants explored the various forms women experience violence in their lives, and learned more about GABRIELA USA’s nation-wide educational campaign “iVOW to Fight Violence Against Women” (iVOW.)  The iVOW campaign expands the definition of and awareness around violence against women, as well as create ways to combat its various forms in society.  An interactive installation titled “Unpacking Violence,” inspired by FiRE member Julie Jamora, featured the campaign’s Seven Deadly Sins Against Women. The installation featured seven balikbayan boxes (care packages commonly sent by Filipino migrants to family members left behind in the Philippines) each representing sex trafficking and prostitution; domestic violence; sexual harassment; rape, incest, and child abuse; sexual exploitation and discrimination; limited access to reproductive healthcare; and violence as a result of political repression.   “The iVOW campaign not only creates awareness around the physical, sexual, and emotional abuses as experienced by women,” said Irma Bajar, chairperson of FiRE, “but also points to effects created by government repression and economic migration.”

“We see the importance of a safe space like MUSE, which investigates how creative expression impacts society,” said Joseline Davila, Finance Chair of FiRE.  “Through a collective artistic process, we hope to show the intersections between the arts and political action, not only for our members, but for our entire community.”

FiRE members Amihan and Mona taking vows to fight violence against women

MUSE Gallery Exhibition

"Unpacking Violence" installation inspired by FiRE member Julie Jamora

FiRE members and MUSE Teaching Artists - Arlene, Anna, Sara




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