Bedstuy Gallery Addresses Rape
There’s a pussy piñata dangling from a beam of the Skylight Gallery in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. “You choose how you want to interact with the pussy,” said Shantrelle Lewis, curator of the Sex Crimes Against Black Girls exhibit, which opened on February 17 and will run until April 2. Though a piñata adorns the room the themes of this exhibit are nothing to celebrate.
All the artists featured in the exhibit share similar pasts; most have directly or indirectly experienced sexual abuse or exploitation at a young age, and all are black. Canvas paintings, dolls, photographs, and sculptures have filled the space. Renditions of Michelle Obama and Condoleezza Rice in doll form sit in the corner below the torn open pussy pinata. Confetti, and penis shaped candy litters the floor. Across the room, a painting depicts a young girl looking on from the shadows as a woman is penetrated by a burly man. She grimaces as a tear rolls down her cheek and onto a pillow.
“The work present here speaks on everything from incest, to rape, to female genital mutilation in African countries, to women being used a weapons of war, and sex slaves,” said Lewis.
Lewis feels that healing is a very important aspect of the exhibit. There is a room dedicated solely to visitor participation and interaction. A wall will be designated to serve as a canvas for a collage of photographs visitors are encouraged to bring in. Photos of women at the age they were sexually abused. As the project progresses, journals will be available for women to write their stories of abuse and survival.
The exhibit culminates with the Young Sisters Stand up/Speak Out workshop & Sisters Healing Circle on April 2, the final day of the exhibitions run. A workshops will be led by therapists, activists, and experts who will address self-defense, self-esteem, and dealing with sexual abuse within the black community. The Healing circle is open to women only. The gallery is inviting women of color to come together in collective meditation and healing exercises based on the premise of healing trauma related to sexual violence.
Adhering with Lewis’s declaration to start a conversation about sexual abuse and incest, Restoration Plaza, the facility housing the gallery, will assist the presentation of panel discussions, documentary screenings, and healing circles for survivors of abuse. NO! a documentary about rape will screen on March 9, followed by a panel discussion moderated by the film’s Director and Producer, Aishah Simmons, a survivor of incest and rape.
The following week on march 15, an all male panel of therapists and activists organized by the Brothers Against Sexual Violence (BASV) organization. “They will speak about how men are working as both perpetrators and protectors from sexual violence,” said Lewis.
“Being a victim of incest, and molestation was something I carried for a long time, said Lewis. "I thought that it was necessary to start talking about these things in a public forum, and start talking about it as a way to prevent these types of atrocities from happening to other innocent young black girls.”