Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Amazing where art takes you

campaigning in Bristol in 2010
Sometimes our creative work takes us in surprising new directions; and this is one example of that, which happened to me over the last few days.

One small step after another, I found myself taken from that famous painting The Scream, by Edvard Munch, to issues and campaigns about female genital mutilation (FGM)*. Surprisingly, there weren't very many steps in this process.

I wrote the poem below in response to that painting, The Scream, which Munch completed in 1893. Art of all kinds is one of my constant inspirations.

I wanted to call the poem 'Silent Scream', but the title sounded familiar, so I checked it out. I discovered that it is the title of a number of films about abortion, but it is also the title of a film, made by a group of schoolgirls in the Bristol area, that forms part of their campaign to raise awareness about FGM and to get it stopped. They reckon that 20,000 girls in the UK are currently at risk of female genital mutilation. See the link below. So, I dedicated the poem to all those girls who are at risk of this barbaric practice.

I read it at the Poems and Pints live literature event in Carmarthen last night. Comments from other women there suggested to me that FGM is indeed still practiced widely in the UK, and that health professionals here collaborate in this practice, which has been illegal here since 1985.

Coincidentally, today there is a report on BBC News online about a new study into the numbers of women in England and Wales who have undergone female genital mutilation.

The aim is to update a 2007 analysis which suggested more than 66,000 women had undergone a form of ritual cutting, with some 24,000 girls at risk.

*Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of the female genital organs, sometimes only leaving a small hole for urination or menstruation.
Campaigners say some communities in the UK with origins in Africa, the Middle East or Asia believe it is a necessary part of becoming a woman, that it reduces female sex drive and therefore the chances of sex outside marriage.
The practice can be life-threatening and women who have been cut often experience pain during sexual intercourse and problems during child birth and menstruation.

Here's the poem: 

Silent scream

Do you feel it?
The Scream, by Edvard Munch, 1893
do you feel the scream?

It is not hers, nor his,
not mine,
all of us are this cry.
Do you feel
this thing beyond senses?

Its desolation breathes through us
and wreathes us
in a veil so dark
there is no sight, nor sound;
nothing to touch or taste.

Black air moves around,
seeps into us, becomes us;
unseeing, unseen, unheard.
Only bleak despair
dwells in our silence.

In this darkest place
none of us can know our name.

and the links: