Creating a ‘Safe Space’ for Women, One ‘Pink Poster’ at a Time!
Every single woman – irrespective of caste, creed, skin colour, class, age, religion or sexual orientation – has faced harassment at some point in their lives. Harassment of women is not an isolated event or an individual interchange gone wrong or even a new story, it is precisely an act of violence. An age-old exchange, rooted in a systemic context of group silence, which takes a heavy psychological toll on the lives of the women who face it and their families and the surrounding communities.
This normalised act of hyper misogyny and suffering in silence for the fear of being blamed is exhausting. With the common act of harassment in public spaces, women develop a persistent and uneasy feeling of being watched everywhere we go, causing mental and physical distress, hindering our mobility, and infringing on our access to ‘safe’ spaces.
These feelings gave birth to the ‘Pink Posters’, a project which is a public conversation with the city about harassment by sticking bright pink posters and stickers reading, ‘A Woman Was Harassed Here’.
Aqui Thami, the heart behind the street art project, selected places and spaces in Mumbai and other cities where she and people close to her have experienced harassment. The handwritten, digitally printed posters and stickers are currently in Hindi and English, with more languages being worked on.
The posters faced immediate disapproval and hardly stayed on the walls for even one day. This reaction emphasised the intolerance of telling a harsh truth in most public environments, where women are meant to be seen and not heard.
With the stickers and posters being taken down, the Pink Posters message will continue to live and be vocalised through the recent collaboration with women led, cultural noise makers of clothing label NorBlack NorWhite. Supporting each other as women, artists and friends, Aqui Thami and the ladies of NorBlack NorWhite decided to take the project a step further by designing t-shirts and totes clearly stating, “A Woman Was Harassed Here” that will continue the dialogue in public spaces and can never be removed.
This conversation is important for NorBlack NorWhite to facilitate as through their years of travelling for handcrafted textiles and working in a heavily male-led industry, there were one too many experiences in which they questioned their design journey in lieu of their safety.
The ladies used to joke about adding a “Harassment Tax” to their sale price as it was a very real expense. This project is an effort to wake people up, even if it’s just for a split second. Hoping for the public to get uncomfortable and spark real feelings when they see their friend, their teacher, sister, mother, and really any woman dressed in this shirt or carrying a tote honouring an honest yet painful statement. This is our idea of using feminism in action while using art as a powerful tool.
Artist and activist, Aqui Thami has been working on building her own idea of a safe space for herself and the women and young girls she works with in Dharavi, Mumbai called The Dharavi Art Room, which has been around for 15 years. It is an attempt to create a safe place – not just in the physical realm, but in the minds and imagination of Dharavi’s residents – by providing them with creative outlets and space to explore their ideas. The aim of every project at Dharavi Art Room is to heal together in community through art, by unlearning, reclaiming and retelling truths.
Funds raised through the sale of these collaborative t-shirts and tote bags will support The Dharavi Art Room, give a voice to the women who are silenced everyday, and is an homage to people who have lost their lives in the name of harassment and gender based violence.