When you look at a woman, what do you see? Another human being or a sex object?
This was the question that a recent exhibition at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination sought to answer. It was staged by local visual artist, Cher-Antoinette under the theme Just Call Me Sarah: Colours of a Woman.
Cher told Barbados TODAY that it was inspired by the life of Sarah Baartman, the South African woman who was brought to Europe by a British doctor with the promise of a better life.
However on arrival she was paraded in freak shows in London and Paris, and nicknamed The Hottentot Venus, with crowds poking fun at her large buttocks.
She died in 1815 but her skeleton and sexual organs remained on display in a museum in Paris until 1974, and it was not until 2002 that her remains were repatriated at the request of the South African government.
“Reading that, it kind of really hurt and I was then bringing it back to where women are nowadays, things that I have seen . . . a lot of times people are not encouraged to be confident in who they are, people judge you because of what you look like. If you don’t fit the societal norms. If you aren’t a size two, if you don’t look like the supermodels, you can’t be anyone,” Cher-Antoinette said.
She believes that there is a little bit of a ‘Sara’ in every woman, given the way women are objectified today.
“All of the insecurities that women have, what you see here in the gallery is me trying to say, ‘you don’t need to let that consume you’. There are going to be aspects of your personality that everybody wants to change. Hey, I wish I was smaller, but if I sit down and get obsessed with that, I probably wouldn’t think of other things that would make my life more positive,” she said.
Cher-Antoinette stated that the exhibition, which was her first, was the result of several decisions she made after turning 50, to bring more meaning to her life. It was also an attempt, she said, to help people “to be able to understand the different facets of a woman”.
“A lot of what you see in the work here is speaking to my journey. The signature piece, which is called In Reflection when I did that it was like, I just found that her face was so peaceful, it was like if she had come to a good place where ‘OK I feel ok with myself. I may be booby, I may be big in the hips, you know, but I’m good. And nobody can tell me I’m not.
“If every woman understands how it feels to be in that place, I think a lot of people will stop picking up other people’s fire rage and wasting time. I always think if you were able to know exactly how much longer you have left on this earth… what would you really do? And the fact that we don’t know, we should try to live in this moment,” she said.
Cher-Antoinette is a forensic scientist by profession, and began her artistic journey in 2014.