One of the best ways to catch people’s attention is to bring the heart into the equation. That’s exactly what two local women’s organizations hope to do as they present a night of music, poetry, art and film during the 12 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women campaign.
The Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre (VFWC) and LesEssentiElles bring more than 15 creative women to the stage and the easel this coming Tuesday, at a variety show called Full-On! – a Celebration of Women’s Art, Words and Music.
For much of the year, the two groups organize anti-violence and anti-assault education campaigns. This month, the focus is on honouring women as the complex, multi-dimensional people we know, or are, or love. The 12 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women campaign runs from November 25 to December 6.
The Full-On! musicians were chosen through Yukon Women in Music. The line-up includes Kim Rodgers, Hélène Beaulieu and Dan B, Krystal Dawn, Sylvie Painchaud and Big Mamma Lele (Amelia Merhar).
“I know there will be some serious moments in the evening, and I know there’s a lot of work to do for women still to be well in the world,” reflects Beaulieu, nicknamed “the banjo jewel” in the Whitehorse Francophone community.
Beaulieu has been performing since age nine, and blends her love of Balinese gamelan music with an ability to play rock, folk, Quebecois music and more.
Her lifelong commitment to music gives her words a certain depth when she says, “The love of playing, the love of music, it’s a form of strength and support that I think people can carry with them.”
Dan B, known for her musical versatility, has been playing saxophone again lately, says Beaulieu, so the two will bring some luscious jazz to the stage.
Music can bring strength, and visual art can bring clarity, to people who are trying to process what happens during abuse, and how to change it.
“When I think about violence against women, it’s such a deep emotional response that I find it hard to articulate,” says Laurie Larkin-Boyle, one of the visual artists involved.
“I think of it like this: if we see humanity as a bird, and then think of the wings as male and female, if one of the wings is damaged we can’t find the strength to fly,” Larkin-Boyle explains. Not surprisingly, she’s working with bird imagery in the painting she’s creating specifically for Full-On!
The decision by VFWC and LesEssentiElles to honour women’s artistic strength is a response to two years of focusing on men’s attitudes towards violence, says Julianna Scramstad, VFWC Program Coordinator.
This year’s campaign to end violence is called Honouring Women, Challenging Men.
“Last year we did more of the challenging men side of things. We had a postcard campaign and ended up with more than 500 pledges from men about what they are doing, or will do, to help end violence in their lives,” Scramstad explains.
Adds Ketsia Houde, “The slogan last year was ‘my strength is not for hurting’. We chose some of the pledges that men had written on the postcards and used those for the posters this year.”
It’s a question of balancing the challenging discussions with the positive side of honouring women, says the LesEssentiElles Director.
This year’s campaign, which will appear in newspapers and on posters starting November 25, will show photos of real men’s faces by their pledges. Not actors – real guys and their own words about their own desires.
“We’re building that side of the equation up now, talking about how women have diverse capabilities,” says Scramstad. “In the media women are always represented so one-dimensionally, and it’s important to counteract that by recognizing publicly how much women are doing in music, in art.”
There will be moments of beauty and amusement. Big Mama Lele will bring her rich voice and offer ukelele-backed lyrics that move between humour and the bitterwseet.
There will be moments of quiet, such as when the short film by Josie O’Brian and Jamie Lee Miller is screened and offers a glimpse into what two young women are thinking about gender equality today.
The night will include notes of seriousness, of course. The event is a fundraiser for a women’s monument that the VFWC and LesEssentiElles plan to build collaboratively in the near future.
“Other towns and cities recognize women who’ve been lost to violence, and a monument is also a place for women’s communities to meet,” says Scramstad. “Full-On! will launch the monument-building effort, as all donations will go to that fund.”
Full-On! A Celebration of Women’s Art, Words and Music is an all-ages, all-genders event that happens Tuesday, November 30, 7:30 pm at the Old Fire Hall. Suggested donation $10, free for children under 12. Info: Maud Caron 668-2663, ext. 315.
Meg Walker is a writer and visual artist living in Dawson City.