Written by Anastasia Onyango. Cover Image: "Concealed" by Nadia Wamunyu.
On Thursday, May 25th, sharp cracking sounds filled the gallery as Juliette moved to David’s cello. As 100 attendees watched during the exhibition launch, Juliette was boldly crushing eggshells with her feet, symbolising the dismantling of stigmas that impact sexual health. TICAH collaborated with her and two painters to illustrate the findings of the organisation’s two-year research study. A partnership with four other community organisations– Rural to Global, SWOP Ambassadors, BorderHub and Positive Young Women’s Voices– allowed the collection of stories from 21 women with disabilities, female adolescents, and sex workers in rural and urban areas.
Inspired by the accounts on access to reproductive care and rights, TICAH constructed a participatory exhibition, challenging healthcare providers, policymakers, and the public to learn the nuances of the powerful narratives and to engage in addressing gender-based violence. Like all TICAH programs, the initiative supported our vision of a safe and just world where rights are realised, the beauty of culture and diversity are celebrated and holistic health is attained.
Continue reading to learn more about the process and impact!
In 2021, TICAH’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) team, with the support of Ibis Reproductive Health (Ibis), conducted research to understand the SRHR information available within specific high-priority groups, and the source of this information. Building on the 2021 research, in 2023 TICAH collaborated on a more targeted study to further understand the challenges of these high-priority groups.
Research and Art Phases:
The 2023 study began with the development of an interview questionnaire. The community partners and TICAH worked to refine the questions to be accessible and considerate of the emotional-social intensity of the topic. Once the guide was completed, research assistants spoke to 21 adolescents and women who were recruited by the four partner organisations. With these narratives, two visual artists—Joy Kito and Nadia Wamunyu—and one movement artist—Juliette Omollo—created nine paintings and one performance piece with the guidance of TICAH’s Art Programs Curator. The pieces integrated core values like agency and resilience to capture key findings of the study like the normalisation of violence and stigmatisation that prevents access to support.
Four Day Exhibition:
The exhibition opened on Thursday, May 25th 2023, and featured keynote speakers from TICAH’s Executive Director Jade Maina, Nicole Juma (young sex worker), and Juliette Omollo (artist and research assistant for the project). During the opening, Juliette performed her choreography live surrounded by an intentional set design of photography, cellist soundtrack, and sombre lighting. The exhibition continued with opportunities for learning with a panel discussion the following Friday. One panellist, Catherine Osita (Program Manager at Rural to Global), highlighted her team’s work of partnering with hospitals to create special areas for supporting adolescents as well as translating language on posters and pamphlets to local languages. One question to the panelist, “What can we do?” was redirected to the audience. As audience members shared their answers to the question, one individual spoke passionately about interrogating the same biases highlighted in the exhibition, extending the concept to include queer health in Kenya.
The exhibition was also attended by participants of the study who received individual, guided tours of the artworks. The adolescents, sex workers, and women with disabilities shared that they felt well-represented by the pieces and felt that their voices were heard and lived experiences were amplified by the project.
The four Audience Engagement Boards situated throughout the exhibition asked questions to the general public to understand their position in the normalisation of violence and prevalence of stigmas. The Boards amassed hundreds of responses, such as:
Overall, the exhibition was attended by 250 individuals over the course of the four days, including artists, lawyers, and healthcare providers. Those who completed the exit survey reported increased knowledge about barriers to reproductive care as well as the efficacy of using art pieces for education and awareness.
Through their generosity and commitment to equity and social justice, TICAH, community partners, the participants, and the artists were able to create the Sauti Project whose impact is sure to extend beyond the exhibition in May.