’Grl Pwr’, Cuban Designers and Activists Demonstrate Their "Feminine Power" With Tattoos

Several young people participate in the ‘Grl Pwr’ exhibition, a different and “our very own” way to celebrate Women’s Day in Cuba. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yeny García, Havana, 9 March 2018 — With the tattoo as an “weapon of empowerment,” Cuban designers and activists claim their right to do what they “want with their bodies” in the Grl Pwr show, an original and “our very own” way to celebrate Women’s Day on the Island.

Away from the official commemorations of March 8 — the day when Cuba usually praises the achievements of the Revolution without strikes or social demands — this exhibition of 15 feminist drawings “made by women to be tattooed on women” is the first of its kind in the country, the curator Yudith Vargas told EFE.

“I have taken as personal the times when I have felt discriminated against because of my tattoos; on the street most people think that being tattooed makes me a dangerous being, as if it reflects a deviant attitude but that’s not true,” she insisted.

The young activist explained that they chose Women’s Day “because it is time to reaffirm ourselves as owners of ourselves,” since for her the decision to get a tattoo is “one of the first acts of empowerment that can lead a woman to self-determination.”

Grl Power is the first action of the year of the cultural exchange Bridges Not Walls between artists from Cuba and the United States, promoted by Katherine Hurley and Jens Rosenkrantz, American artists based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Vargas, coordinator of the project on the island, highlighted the artistic value of tattooing as a bearer of a message, in this case feminist, something that resonates with the purpose of Bridges Not Walls to publicize Cuban talent and promote creative encounters between both countries, regardless of policy fluctuations.

Liz Capote, Diana Carmenate and Ana Lyem Lara are the creators of the illustrations, which will be on display until April 8 at Zenit Tattoo, the Havana tattoo studio where Lara works, one of the “very few” women who tattoo in Cuba.

The artist herself, an architect by profession and as of more than four years ago a tattoo artist, opened the initiative on Thursday, putting one of her designs on the skin of the rock singer Zammys, the first of fifteen who consider themselves fortunate to be spending a part of the month in the Zenit Tattoo chairs.

Volunteers chose between drawings with visual games using the phrases “I’m sorry if my body offends you,” “Self Love” and messages from famous feminist campaigns such as “Free the Nipple,” which denounce the discrimination between the body feminine and masculine in social networks.

“There are very few women tattooists in Cuba and I am proud to be one of them, I am looking for others to be inspired, it is not complicated to be a tattooist, you just have to be consistent and dedicate yourself to it one hundred percent, for me it is not a hobby,” stressed Lara.

For the young woman, “having a tattoo is a form of rebellion” although she emphasized that she constantly suggests designs “that contribute something or that have artistic value.”

“Something that increases your self-esteem, whether you’re a man or a woman,” she smiled without stopping work.

The 27-year-old lawyer Claudia González is concerned about the prejudices that are still associated with different professions, where visible tattoos are not looked on kindly.

“This will be my first, I wanted to do it a long time ago and this seemed like the perfect moment,” said Fernandez, who selected the design of legs with red heels, which she will avoid showing in her work place, although she admits that the stigma of inked bodies is fading little by little.


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