Global Roundup: Student Strikes in Chile Amid GBV, Ghanaian Skate Gal, Canada LGBTQ2S+ National Monument, Social Media Star Tackles Ableism, Black Queer Artist Redefines Religious Art
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
Thousands of high school and university students marched through Santiago to demand aid in the face of the rising cost of living on Friday. Photograph: Alberto Valdés/EPA via The Guardian
CW: gender-based violence
Student strikes have forced a string of school closures across Chile’s capital, Santiago, amid growing anger over sexist and violent behaviour only weeks after the country returned to in-person classes after two years of Covid-19 lockdowns.
Hundreds of girls joined protests outside Santiago Lastarria school, after male students were found swapping intimate photos of their female classmates on Instagram. In the chats, the boys allegedly discussed gang-raping their fellow students and claimed the notorious “wolfpack” case in Pamplona, Spain—where an 18-year old woman was gang raped—as “inspiration.” After screenshots of the conversations circulated among female students in several schools, students organized the protest in solidarity with the affected students. The Lastarria school was closed for two days and the culprits have been suspended while an investigation takes place.
The demand is to stop the harassment. We are demanding justice for victims, and for schools to stop protecting abusers…Maybe [the schoolboys] haven’t caused physical harm to anyone, but such talk can often lead to something worse. - Javiera, 17
Physical attacks have also taken place in Santiago’s schools this month. Last week, a 14-year-old was reportedly raped in a classroom by an older student during a lunch break. Students and parents staged protests outside the school’s locked gates, pelting the building with rocks while demanding explanations. The institution is temporarily closed for investigation.
Schoolchildren’s sexual harassment complaints have increased by 56% in 2022 compared with the same period in 2018, according to the government’s education department. A Unesco report concluded that school closures have gendered impacts on children, which may increase their vulnerability to gender-based violence. 21-year-old student activist Valentina Carrasco, who has been been fighting for sexual education reforms since she was at secondary school, also believes the pandemic has exacerbated cases of gender violence in Chile.
Young people were at home for two years without seeing people, now they’re in classes again and everything has exploded…Now more than ever we need inclusive sexual education programs that talk about consent and sexuality within a socio-cultural perspective. - Valentina Carrasco
Harmonie Bataka, 27, a skateboarder and skateboarding tutor, balances on a plastic bottle filled with water on her day off, at her home in Tema, Ghana (Source: Reuters)
Harmonie Bataka, 27, is a skateboarder and skateboarding tutor who is empowered by the sport and wants to inspire other girls to ride. Last year, she quit her job to pursue skateboarding full time. She persisted despite her family and friends discouraging her and saying there were too many boys doing the sport who are too good for her to win any competitions.
I just wanted to be free to do what I love. It is really necessary and really important, otherwise this world will break you. - Harmonie Bataka
Skateboarding is a fringe sport in West Africa, especially for girls. Less than 17% of the world's weekly skateboarders were women in 2018, according to data from Grand View Research.
When she started, Bataka didn't know any other women skaters. But today, the scene is thriving due to Ghana's first skatepark, Freedom Skatepark, which opened late last year as well as the Skate Gal Club founded by a local extreme sports collective. Bataka found a tight circle of women who supported each other in ways that went beyond skateboarding - sharing recipes, gardening tips, mental health advice and more. The connection encouraged Bataka to pursue her passion full time.
The skatepark is open exclusively to women and girls every Thursday. They can use the equipment and take lessons for free. These Thursdays have been particularly impactful for new skaters like four-year-old Leila, one of Bataka's youngest students. Leila has already conquered one of the park's largest ramps and her mother Myriam said it has been important for her to see girls doing the sport.
It's just so good to have a place for the girls to take examples from each other. She told me last time, 'Oh, as a girl can I do this?' ... And I said 'Yes Leila, you can do anything' - Myriam
Bataka hopes that these sessions will encourage more women and girls in Ghana to try skateboarding. She believes the sport has taught her important lessons about courage and perseverance.
A mock-up of the winning design by Team Wreford. Credit: Courtesy of Team Wreford via Xtra
A monument will be built in downtown Ottawa, Canada, in honour of thousands of queer and trans individuals who were targeted by the federal government during the 1950s to 1990s in what has come to be known as the “LGBT Purge.”
The winning design for Canada’s LGBTQ2S+ National Monument was unveiled last week at a joint press conference held by representatives of the LGBT Purge Fund, the federal government and the monument’s design team. The LGBT Purge Fund was established in 2018 to manage monies from a class-action lawsuit brought forward by former Canadian Armed Forces personnel, RCMP officers and federal civil servants who had been fired from their jobs for being LGBTQ2S+.
The winning design, Thunderhead, was created by Winnipeg-based Team Wreford and chosen from a shortlist of five designs. The monument will consist of a 30 foot-tall cylinder, with the imprint of a thundercloud hollowed out of its centre. The interior will be lined with thousands of mirrored tiles, evoking Studio 54 disco balls while reflecting and refracting light.
All of the other national monuments in Ottawa should be 10 percent queer, but they’re not. We want to create one that is 110 percent queer, 110 percent ours. - Shawna Dempsey, lesbian visual artist and member of the monument’s winning design team
Architect Peter Sampson says the design team had trusted its LGBTQ2S+ members with the core design elements. The team agreed that the thundercloud motif’s multiple interpretations reflected the many meanings they wanted the monument to convey: turbulence and volatile energy but also renewal, cleansing and cathartic celebration.
The monument site will also include a lush park with a garden, a stage and a fruit orchard. The latter is both a nod to the pejorative term “fruit” used to refer to LGBTQ2S+ people and a reference to the “fruit machine” of the 1950s and 1960s—a device that measured pupil dilation in response to pornographic images to supposedly identify homosexuals.
There will also be a healing circle surrounded by 13 stones picked by Two-Spirit Elders, with one from each province and territory. Albert McLeod, a Two-Spirit advocate who has ancestry from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and the Métis communities of Norway House and Cross Lake, noted that the Two-Spirit community endured the combined forces of colonialism, racism and anti-LGBTQ2S+ discrimination throughout the purge and beyond. McLeod sees the monuments as a memorial, as many people affected by the purge did not live to see it.
Being Indigenous culturally was something that was attempted to be erased, and also being LGBT was something that was really devalued. There was really an attempted erasure of historical knowledge about Two-Spirit people and our rightful place in society…For those purge survivors who are no longer with us, it is a form of homage to them, to their spirits, and its vibrancy and its strength. The state tried to crush it but didn’t succeed. I think really, that is the legacy of this monument. They did not succeed. - Albert McLeod
Paula Carozzo, who immigrated to the US from her native Venezuela as a child, has amassed more than 20,000 followers on Instagram and 58,000-plus on TikTok, with the mission to redefine disabilities “one cane at a time.”
After Carozzo had her tonsils removed at the age of five, she developed brain damage. The struggle of getting formally diagnosed led her family to uproot their lives and move to the U.S. There, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. For Carozzo and her family, grappling with her diagnosis was hard enough to contend with, but without the support or the familiarity of their homeland, the experience was “the toughest of [their] lives.”
For a long time, Carozzo thought she would eventually go back to walking the way she did prior to her cerebral palsy. She believes this denial stemmed from living in a society that shunned her, made her feel like she didn’t belong, or that her disability was something she had to cure or change about herself. And she’s hoping to fight that stigma and change perceptions about people with disabilities with her social media presence.
Carozzo went to school for PR and marketing, but was craving something with meaning and purpose. In every photo, Reel, or TikTok video, she can be found with her cane (she has 16 in total — the purple amethyst is her favorite). Her cane not only acts as support — an aid she literally and figuratively leans on to navigate the world outside her home, especially when she encounters spaces that are inaccessible — but it’s also emblematic of who she is as a person.
I fall under the category of invisible illness because people can’t tell that I have a disability based on what a disability is defined as, which is looking terminally ill, and that’s not always the case. It’s very important that people understand that a disability is an identity — and it’s not something that looks a certain way. And everyone experiences it differently. - Paula Carozzo
She takes great pride in creating an educational platform, with lengthy captions and heartfelt one-on-ones with people on the discourse of disabilities such as disability etiquette. She works to amplify the voices of others, by educating people on the intersectionality of disabilities, and by making sure that people with disabilities feel seen in their entirety – and not just as heroes. Carozzo does have trolls who say she fakes her disability or that she’s doing it for clout. However, she chooses to ignore them and instead focus on creating a safe space.
There are pros and cons when you’re visible in this digital era. I’m educating people about my identity as a disabled woman, as a disabled Latina, but most importantly, letting them know that they do have a safe space to show up as who they are, that they’re not alone. - Paula Carozzo
Jesus had a Nana too, 2022. Photo courtesy Almine Rech and Genesis Tramaine. Via Document Journal
Artist Genesis Tramaine’s latest solo show Break of Day is currently on display and designed around her community: intergenerational, Black, and queer. The Brooklyn born and raised artist calls herself a “devotional painter” and has been redefining the genre of religious art.
Tramaine’s portraits consist of richly colored abstractions of Black faces, rendered with oil sticks, oil pastels, acrylic paint, rainwater, and salt. The works’ titles are religious references, or adaptations of them: Blessed are you Among Women, Jesus had a Nana too, Saint Luke Bears Fruit.
The subjects’ features are distorted—they might have many eyes, or a mouth that takes up half their face. Such a style is a testament to freedom and spirit, and a means of drawing attention to secondary detail: In Feast of the Annunciation, for instance, the Virgin Mary takes up one figure’s forehead. In Feast of the Holy Spouses, she’s channeled through a sitter’s blue veil.
Through her art, Tramaine wants to inspire others and push the boundaries of what is expected of Black queer artists.
I’m a Black woman artist, and I’ve got to do what I got to do to not just keep up, but to build for the next generation. To build and inspire for those who may not know a lot of these tunnels don’t exist, and there’s just no light. I praise and thank God for being the artist who is put in position to create, and to shed that light. - Genesis Tramaine
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.