Girl talk with an artist who subverts themes of femininity in her work
Photographs: Neo Baepi
There was a moment when Jana Babez decided to reclaim pink.
“I think pink is considered quite a soft colour, and I think pink can be considered quite strong. I think you can wear pink boldly, and be brave, and strong and powerful. I wear pink as a statement, to reclaim it.”
In the same way that boys should be enabled to access their soft feelings, she wants girls to be able to access their assertiveness. Here's more of what Jana Babez has to say about being a woman in 2017.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that women are still facing?
I can only speak for my own background in the arts. I would definitely say it’s respect. Having respect in every field: we don’t have the respect that men have. Recently with #MenAreTrash online, we’ve seen people crawl out of the woodwork and show their true colours. So, as much as people say that things have changed, these gremlins crawl out of the woodwork, and oh – there we go, that’s the problem right there.
A lot of your work has been about women’s bodies. How can we as a society start to think differently about the way we treat women’s bodies?
One of my recent pieces was a reaction to a very well-known South African artist who murdered a sex worker, and that was such an important piece for me, because I wanted to show how our bodies have been trampled over, literally beaten, abused, left for dead… I wanted to put a spot on that so that just maybe my little artwork could affect someone’s mind and affect change.
What do you love about being a woman, and about your own body?
We all struggle with our own body issues, and with insecurities, but I have tried to embrace and overemphasise the things that I don’t like about my body. Maybe I don’t like my weight at a certain time, but I will wear something skimpy, and that makes me feel good, because I want people to be confronted with my body, as a woman. I want to physically be in a space, and take up space.
How do you define what makes a woman?
If you believe that you’re a woman, you’re a woman. It’s completely up to you.
What change do you hope to see for women in your lifetime?
How much do you allow yourself to dream? Do you allow yourself to want these unattainable things? I guess you do. Equal pay – can we just have that?