Like many millennials, I receive invites to a number of events on Facebook – ranging from free dance lessons to food truck festivals. This past Wednesday, however, my attention perked up upon seeing an invite from my sister to a pop-up art exhibit and documentary screening. The Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt? The Art of Healing exhibit was the artistic boost I didn’t know I needed.
The traveling art show features ten paintings by Frances Bradley, a visual and performing artist, who uses her art to emotionally heal from her sexual assault. The paintings immediately jump off the canvas with their vivid color and fluid lines. Like a graphic novel, they tell the story of Bradley’s rape as a teenager, using words and images to convey her feelings of gripping fear and paranoia. The standout piece boldly depicts the rape in progress with her attacker on top of her as she lies beneath him, face stricken with pain and terror.
Bradley’s series tackles the prevalent-yet often overlooked-issue of sexual violence against black women. In an effort to bring her social justice work to a larger audience and explain the inspiration behind her series, Bradley and her creative team are in the process of filming a documentary that will serve as a companion piece to the paintings. In the 10 minute clip that was screened, interviews with activists and academics including Dr. Yaba Blay are featured alongside Bradley’s discussion of her assault and the symbolism laden in her work.
Seeing a group of black women come together for an extremely worthy cause was absolutely wonderful. The documentary’s producer and cinematographer are both black women, and much of the audience was as well. The spirit of positivity, support, and encouragement was palpable in the room.
After opening the evening with a prayer and traditional African libations ceremony, during which we called upon the ancestors, artists, and intellectuals who have gone on before us, a short program followed. A variety of performers, including the artist’s sister, sang, rapped, and played instruments. The collaborative theme of the night was evident as folks around the room ad-libbed lyrics during a freestyle and Bradley tap danced with fervor alongside a Malian singer playing a traditional instrument. The energy and enthusiasm was infectious and just the inspiration I need to find my own creative community. This pop-up exhibit was certainly proof that black girls are indeed magic.
If you’re interested in learning more and supporting the film, check out their website: http://womanhoodorwomanshurt.com/