Earlier this month I did a session on period art with the undergraduate students on the Public Health programme at the University of Pittsburg.
The subject of my presentation was specifically Raqs-e- Mahvaari, or menstrual dance which is included in Period Matters, and choreographed and performed by Amna Mawaz Khan. I discussed various forms of art and how they can help community healing, self expression, raise awareness, help to educate, as a data collection tool and more. I gave other examples from around the world including how after the Rwanda genocide communities were helped to rebuild and restore trust through their joint participation in arts and music.
Similarly in Kenya, after the post election violence, warring neighbouring villages were invited to participate in musical and sporting community building activities, to rebuild social bonds. I also shared how art can cause discomfort, disruption and those who want to bring change often face challenges.
Period art is a radical form of art, and risky, but to break the stigma and shame around the subject we have to be brave, so that things can be different for others who are living under oppression, violence and patriarchy.
The facilitator of the session sent me this note after:
Farah your talk was eye-opening and so inspiring – it forced us to stretch outside of our comfort zones in so many ways, much like art does in our lives and I appreciated it so much, and know the students appreciated your vulnerability and real life stories too. One student came up to me after class to tell me just how much she loved your talk and so I had to let you know😊 She is studying Swahili and wants to go into the UN after graduating and said that your example from Pakistan was so eye opening to her. Thank you for sharing your stories and experiences with us. Most importantly, we are so glad that you are safe. I had no idea that you had just experiences such a terrifying life event, and just thank you for your bravery for and what you are doing to advance rights for women in the world.
You are incredible! I hope we can keep discussing and collaborating and dreaming in the future, thanks again for sharing your time and expertise with us 😊