THE FIRST PIECE 'Pray'
The first piece of this series is Pray, which was created a year ago. Pray gave me the idea to do the series and now it emphasizes the message of the whole project. The traditional Tanzanian kanga at the background of Pray was chosen by chance. It said on it "Mungu hamtupi kiumbe chake" - God doesn't abandon his creatures. Mungu means god, but this message is easily translated into a universal thought - everyone is as worthy. Pray describes the way we feel towards our beliefs and how our beliefs become part of us. A woman's belief in herself and her own worth is important to every woman. In this series I want each piece to carry a positive, encouraging and beautiful message around this idea.
KANGAS as backgrounds
After creating Pray I learnt more about the history of kangas through my friend, textile designer Elina Helenius. The kangas were then chosen as the background for the whole series. Combined with different kinds of women in this project, they reflect womanhood around the world and highlight the universal beauty of femininity.
Originating on the island of Zanzibar, kangas are a multi-faceted and multi-functional gorgeous African fabrics and their beauty is even deeper through the messages they carry. Kangas are used not only as clothes but also as baby carriers, curtains, tablecloths, laundry baskets and blankets. Big significance of the kanga lies in its Swahili message though. The kangas are traditionally used by women and their poetry is woven into the cycle of life. Hundreds of proverbs often confront subjects like relationships, politics, religion, wishes and birth, but also gossip, lies, disappointment, failure and even death. The kanga is an essential non-verbal, indirect form of communication among girls and women, sometimes intentionally puzzling and full of perplexing double meanings.
In this project I have received help in translating the sentences, and I chose the kangas according to their patterns as well as their writings. The name of each artwork reflects the message in the original writing.
WHY BODY PAINTING?
Body painting has a very important role in this project. Body painting has an empowering quality to it and it makes one see their body differently, the acceptance towards it increases - "My body is part of this beautiful piece of art".
I have had the privilege to paint tens of different kinds of people, both women and men, in my practice work, competitions, own projects as well as for commissions. Almost without exception there is a noticeable change in everyone. Some have very openly told me about how wonderful it feels to be painted, the others you just see silently looking at themselves in the mirror with an accepting look in their eyes.
The intimacy during the painting process is liberating and it silences one to listen to and really feel their body. The end result is positively confusing and the long, sometimes very difficult time staying still feels rewarding in the end. 99% of those painted would like to be painted again.
In this project, the final works convey a message to the viewer of a woman's worth, but the actual process of creating the artworks helps the models see their own beauty.
All women are the same, no matter the age, shape, skin colour, famous or unknown. All women are just as beautiful.
Just as those women wearing the kangas and the writings on them, these Wonder Women became one with the message on their background kanga. These women blend into the thoughts on these artworks and to inspire others they carry those beautiful encouraging messages on their skin.
Women are often called wallflowers and unnoticeable. This might be true that women are often overlooked, but what matters the most when we are pursuing an equal world, is the way women see themselves. If we are happy in our own skin, believe in ourselves and love ourselves the way we are, we can do anything no matter how others see us.