With International Women’s Day round the corner, WOW Festival week seeks to recognize woman empowerment through a series of talks, workshops and performances. Reporter: Sohini Sinha. Multimedia Reporter & Sub-editor: Alex Xi Zhang
Southbank Centre’s WOW – Women of the World Festival applauds the achievements of women and girls, and looks at the obstacles they face across the world. Celebrating its 5th year, the festival is being observed from 1 March to 8 March 2015 at the Southbank Centre.
The highlight of the first day: a debate of Can porn empower women hosted by Jane Garvey for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, discussed whether porn is responsible for twisting perception of women today or is it just a reflection of how women are actually seen.
The panel had a range of prominent participants including Sam Roddick, owner of Coco de Mer, an erotic emporium. Pandora Blake, the feminist porn performer and producer, Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans, pornography researcher at the University of Leicester and founder of Resist Porn Culture and Clarissa Smith, professor of sexual cultures at University of Sunderland were also on the panel.
“It was a great debate. People are very open to hear different point of views. I think it is great we are living in a time, day and age where we are talking about this sort of issues,” says Benedict Garrett, the director and presenter of the first Scotland LGBT station Xpress Radio Scotland.
He further adds: “It is a topic that a lot of people want to talk about. Personally, I think the question should be about how everybody is portrayed in it. Nobody mentioned the gay man, lesbian and how lesbian porn can be aggressive, violent, and dominating.”
Other events introduced for the first time in this year’s festival, which have not been seen in UK before included the Foray into Chromatic Zones exhibition, by American-born, Paris-based artist, Sheila Hicks gives a vibrant contemporary art work with supple materials like fibre and yarn. This is her first solo show in a UK public institution.
Hicks used to learn traditional textile techniques in South America. Since her return, she has been devoting herself to the combination of visual arts and architecture with such techniques. The exhibition is part of the Hayward Project Space to highlight the design of the Hayward Gallery and the Waterloo Sunset Pavilion.
Visitors can play exhibition fibre and immerse themselves in colour. As Hicks says: “I see it as people making friends with masses of innocent squatters of fibre bales and bundles.”
Other events include Beneath the Mask exhibit by Claude Cahun (1894 – 1954), who was known for her photographic self-portraits. This exhibit displayed her rare photographic works from the Claude Cahun Archive at Jersey Heritage.
She was considered ahead of her time and her work explored perceived gender roles and identity, concerns that still are prevalent in the modern world.
Claude Cahun has said in Disavowals, 1930: “Beneath this mask, another mask. I will never be finished removing all these faces.”
The WOW festival contains a series of activities and events to celebrate International Women’s day. It represents an occasion which ranges from general celebration for women’s economic, political, and social achievements.