Powerful paintings showcased in the JDUC

A look at Half The Sky’s latest art show

Heather Haynes' paintings of African women.

An art show last Saturday night, hosted by Queen’s Half The Sky has a simple message of female empowerment.

The club — which has been running since 2011 — is the Queen’s chapter of the Half the Sky organization, a worldwide group dedicated to ending female oppression.

Saturday’s event ran along the lines of that theme, but with a Kingston twist. As club member, Kelsey Fraser ’18, explained, the University’s branch is especially focused on “local initiatives that emphasize women’s health and education.” All proceeds from donations, sales and raffles went directly to the Elizabeth Fry Society, a charity that runs shelters, halfway houses and support programs for women in the Kingston area.

That feeling of female support could be found in every corner of the JDUC’s McLaughlin Room, where the event was held. Copies of Canadian poet Rupi Kaur’s bestselling collection Milk and Honey stood innocuously on a raffle table next to homemade cookies and large art prints. The small collection of local artwork displayed around the room featured colourful paintings of women of all races and cultures.

The theme of the night, women’s bodies, “just sort of came together,” according to the organizers, as they were considering their submissions from the Queen’s community.

The most eye-catching of these submissions were donated by prominent local artist Heather Haynes, who runs her own gallery in Gananoque. Her artwork, as Fraser said, has been featured in art galleries across the country and were the largest and most prominent portraits in the show.

These paintings all featured African women and children against layered, splattered backgrounds and were up for display, but not for sale.

At the head of the small gallery, in front of the defunct fireplace, stood the most stunning painting in the display, donated by Haynes. “Tchukuda Women,” part  of her Worlds Collide series painted on a trip to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo features a line of women of all ages, dressed in bright patterned dresses and matching head wraps. Some are proudly staring ahead, others turning their heads to chat with others in the line, but all display confidence in their stance. The painting was a refreshing change from stereotypical portrayals of Africa in Western media, which are often limited to images of poverty and helplessness.

The painting was interestingly also in stark juxtaposition to the dark portrait of a suited man smoking a pipe that regularly hangs on the wall of McLaughlin Room. The contrast of these loudly feminine images and voices, many coming from Queen’s students, in the austere and masculine space provided some interesting food for thought, when considering how the Queen’s population has diversified over the years.  

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