A monthlong festival is celebrating the impact women from the region and around the world have had in several different areas of the artistic world. The She Creates Festival, which is being put on by Neruda Arts, was launched on International Women’s Day with the She Imagines gallery at their St. Jacobs studio.
This exhibition features work by eight local and international artists from diverse backgrounds. The work will be featured in the studio until the festival’s last day on March 26. Other events in the festival included She Enchants, where authors Paddy Gillard-Bentley and Maria Fernanda Ibarra read short stories they wrote to students at Conestogo Public School. Last weekend Neruda Arts teamed up with Kitchener-based Flush Ink Productions, where Gillard-Bentley is the artistic director, to put on She Speaks, which included the readings of eight plays and monologues written by women.
“We decided that one day was probably not enough. When I started producing plays, 17 per cent of produced plays were written by women. So basically, we sat down and decided to make it a monthlong celebration of women in the arts, hitting diverse areas and genres of the arts,” said Gillard-Bentley, who is also the communications director for Neruda Arts.
This Friday and Saturday, She Resists is being performed by Iranian immigrant Saba Zameni who was arrested in her home country for being a female performer.
“She’s mesmerizing, that’s all I can say. She is also very active in speaking out against the oppression of women in Iran, which is just ridiculous,” explained Gillard-Bentley.
Zameni will perform on Friday at 7 p.m. at the St. Jacobs studio and Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Kitchener Market piazza. Gillard-Bentley and others will support Zameni on Saturday by standing silently and wearing shirts that say “Women Life Freedom” in Farsi, Arabic, Spanish, French and English.
“[It’s] just to make a statement that we may be across the ocean and so different culturally, but what’s happening there is pretty much unconscionable,” Gillard-Bentley said.
The last two events of the festival will be She Illustrates on March 19 (2-4 p.m.), and She Performs on March 25 and 26 (7-9 p.m.). She Illustrates, which will be held behind the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, will feature the work of comic illustrators from Chile. She Performs will include the performance Scarlet Rain written by Gillard-Bentley. Isabel Cisterna, founder and artistic director of Neruda Arts, will perform her stand-up comedy/monologue, The Twelve Step Recovery Program or How to Survive Cultural Shock, about her experience immigrating to Canada. Luta Cruz, an Afro-Chilean human rights activist, will present a concert.
“She has seen all kinds of prejudice from pretty much every angle you could imagine from sexuality to her view to her race and ethnicity and she’s come through it as such a positive person,” said Gillard-Bentley of Cruz.
While Gillard-Bentley explained that she is not saying the art world is prejudiced against women, there are deeper issues at play that may lead to many women not submitting their work for publication.
“We think we’re living in a very enlightened society, and clearly we are not. It’s important that women’s voices are heard, in theatre, in music, in visual arts, in areas where you wouldn’t think that in theatre there was such a disparity between the number of men’s work produced, compared to works [by] women. You wouldn’t think that because you just assume that the arts are so inclusive, and clearly they are not. I think it’s partly to do with the expectations of women versus men.
“I just would hope that the community would embrace what we’re doing in trying to celebrate diversity in all its colours and beautiful flavours,” she added.