‘Sexual Assault: The Roadshow’ paves way to self-healing

Sexual Assault: The Roadshow at Nathan Phillips Square

Sexual Assault: The Roadshow was on display in Nathan Phillips Square,
where it featured African textile-based artwork by Toronto-based artist Apanaki Temitayo Minerve, among others. (photo: Kevin John Siazon)

Sexual Assault: The Roadshow is coming to Ryerson University for Social Justice Week.

The touring art installation, made out of a repurposed shipping container, spotlights artwork that empowers survivors of sexual assault.

The gallery introduces new work at every stop it makes, and the Ryerson edition will feature pieces produced and curated by illustrator, journalist, and Ryerson alumna, Hana Shafi.

“It’s intense, it’s political, it’s relevant,” said Shafi. “I think it’s something that everyone needs to see, especially people who haven’t been impacted by sexual violence … you need to see the stuff that people have created and the resistance work that they’re doing.”

She said that installations like The Roadshow provide an opportunity to highlight the struggles survivors face.

“This installation is a way to [show survivors] that they’re not alone. That there are ways to resist, there are ways to heal… [and] people are advocating for them,” Shafi said.

Hana Shafi at (Mus)Interpreted, Daniel's Spectrum

Hana Shafi exhibiting her work at the opening of (Mus)Interpreted at Daniels Spectrum. (Photo: Arooj Yaqub)

The 23-year-old Toronto artist, whose artwork was recently featured in THIS Magazine’s 50th anniversary, said she will be theming her additions to The Roadshow around “positive affirmation.” It’s a subject Shafi tackles frequently in her digital illustrations under the name Frizz Kid.

“They’re very simple, essential reminders for people, and myself, about how to navigate through the day, navigate trauma, navigate healing,” added Shafi.

Activist Jane Doe and musician Lillian Allen are the organizers of Sexual Assault: The Roadshow. The mobile installation adopts pieces produced by artists in each community it visits. Its collection includes photography by York University student and assault survivor Mandi Gray; zine panels produced at the Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton Area; and spirit paintings by First Nations artists from Ohsweken.

The Roadshow began its journey in Toronto in June before travelling to Ohsweken, a village on the Six Nations reserve, in July. It was in Hamilton during August.

Shafi said she was approached to contribute to The Roadshow by Farrah Khan, the coordinator for Ryerson’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education. She was also recruited to run several zine-making workshops centered around “positive affirmations,” with the intent that some of the artwork produced will be displayed for The Roadshow.

“We talked about how affirmation art can be angry, it can be gentle, it can be aggressive, it can be personal or soft, it can be anything,” Shafi said about her workshops.

Hana Shafi Positive Affirmation art

Hana Shafi’s “positive affirmation art” provides messages of support and frequently addresses topics of consent and sexual violence. (Courtesy Hana Shafi)

Shafi’s “positive affirmation” art is meant to be a catharsis for herself and anyone else who forgets to take care of themselves, something many students struggle with as they try to balance the difficulties that come with university life.

“We’re creating these environments where we’re being told if you’re not doing something fucking phenomenal every moment of the day, that your worth is, like, zero,” said Shafi. “When I make my art I think, ‘What do I need to remind myself, what do I need to remind others, what bullshit do I need to dispel out of their life?’”

Some of Shafi’s work is on display at Daniels Spectrum for (Mus)Interpreted, a group exhibition showcasing works by emerging and established young Muslim women artists in the Greater Toronto Area.

Shafi will be hosting a free zine-making workshop at noon on Oct. 19 at the Student Campus Centre, where some of the art created may be selected to be shown when The Roadshow arrives at Ryerson.

The Roadshow will be on campus from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5.

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