Art pieces highlight violence against women

Staring blankly ahead, two girls remained silent as strangers touched up their hair and applied make-up.

Twenty minutes later, one was "prettified" with a scarf tied around her neck, while the other had a bright red Joker grin extending beyond her lips and facial hair drawn on with an eyebrow pencil.

But instead of being victims of bullying, both women used their performance art piece to raise awareness of how impossible standards of beauty are often inflicted on women by society.

Spearheaded by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), the Pretty Ugly piece was just one of many at a one-day arts fest held at the Aliwal Arts Centre on Sunday.

The Break The Silence exhibition aimed to create awareness and a deeper understanding of issues relating to violence against women.

Other works included Mirror Mirror, a visual art installation of more than 30 mirrors that encouraged visitors to scrawl on a larger mirror negative words they had been labelled with, such as being "thick" or "scrawny".

They were then encouraged to erase what others had written on it as a symbolic act of solidarity to reject those labels.

"In an advanced society like ours we can no longer just preach," said Ms Corinna Lim, executive director of Aware.

"Visitors (to the event) have to come to their own conclusions."

Another exhibit, Out Of Reach, delved into sensitive topics such as the female body and female sexuality through a display of six items, including soiled menstruation pads and pregnancy kits.

Also featuring musical and theatrical performances, the arts festival was part of the We Can! Singapore campaign that began in March.

"These exhibits are experiential and make us think about how society is responsible for abuse of women in general," said student Nafeesa Saini, 23, who visited the event.

This year also marks the first time that Singapore is taking part in the global We Can! End All Violence Against Women campaign, which questions gendered social attitudes and stereotypes that tolerate violence.

Teacher Jacyntha England, 45, said: "It's a great exhibition that has a good variety of events which the public can choose from."

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