What Community Leaders Think : Their input on the posters and murals
March 1, 2019
Truly, the most lively a discussion can get is when you ask a group of people how women and girls should be represented in society. Last week our meeting with members of the Community Art Committee focused on just this subject. The purpose was to get their input on how to represent women and girls will be represented in the Tunaweza Portraits Project in the posters and murals.
It always strikes me how controversial this subject is, how political it is to discuss what women should do and what they should wear, and how they should look. We engaged for three hours, and had to close the meeting at 5pm as people need to be able to get home before dark. Happily, we left with a good sense of how to develop the themes for the murals and posters.
Initially, to stimulate a discussion, we first showed committee members a series of images of women and girls that appear in public spaces in Goma and the broader region. This effectively led to a lively discussion with them over snacks of beignets and fresh ginger/passionfruit juice. We were probing for “What do you see in these images?” “What is missing? “What aspects of women are NOT shown that you would like to see represented in the murals and posters?” We received lots of commentary and there was a healthy and long debate. Notable was commentary that it isn’t useful to portray women as victims, that it would be inspiring to show women with a determined, and happy expression that shows they have a vision for the future and to portray women as they are in contemporary times, meaning resembling Congolese women. It is an interesting point of reflection that while in genuine discussions like these we valorize women and promote a strong and positive image, when we look around, real gender equality and positive representation is lacking, especially on the commercial representations.
Grace, our community engagement lead, who guided the discussion points out that exchanges and discussions about the representation of women remains a very important subject that requires more attention here in Goma (as well as everywhere else!). In her opinion the community in Goma needs to work to “positivize” women and girls, to give women and girls hope, awaken their conscience and to show her that she is capable of participating in the development of society.
The committee definitely shared some interesting ideas with potential for positive impact and understood this need. For example, the representative from the Division of Youth suggested we show a woman riding a motorcycle at 180 kilometers per hour (aka 111 miles an hour!) as a way to shock people into noticing how capable women are. The representative for the Division of Gender, Women and Children brought out a calendar produced by UNICEF with examples of photographs of girls posed in different careers, from surgeons to engineers and suggested we integrate the concept of showing women in exceptional careers to highlight their capacity.
Grace notes that was encouraging to see that members of the committee were very active on this subject, it shows their interest for the project and the impact of posters and murals to be disseminated in the city of Goma to achieve the project objective.
I left the meeting with a few specific ideas in mind that are important to carry forward in the designs of the murals and posters: The facial expression, the gaze of the women portrayed really matters, it needs to show strength and inspiration.
Having clarity as to the message and meaning of murals and posters is crucial, sometimes things can be misread. The more specifically and detailed the visual message is the more effective it will be. Representing women working in specific jobs that are dominated by men is an effective way to draw attention to the capacity of women. And lastly, the women and girls in the posters and murals should look like the Congolese women and girls of today.
Right now, we are in the final stages of discussion with the girls and the committee on the specific images for the posters, will be sharing that soon!