We all know there’s still a taboo around menstruation—even though it’s the most natural thing that can happen to a woman—in the way it’s discussed in the media and reflected in people’s attitudes. That’s why I was pretty stoked to hear that the woman behind sustainable sanitary brand, Tsuno, has staged an art exhibition solely dedicated to periods.
Celebrating marine life and the Gregorian calendar system, Tsuno’s Roslyn Campbell has brought together 32 illustrators from Australia and Canada for a show cleverly entitled Shark Week. As you might have guessed, it’s got nothing to do with sharks. It’s just one of the many euphemisms used to describe menstruation because, let’s face, that’s a dirty word.
“Over the years we’ve conjured up so many euphemisms to allude to menstruation without actually saying the words ‘I have my period.’ Most of them are so hilariously unrelated to periods it’s not funny,” says Roslyn.
“Aunt Flo is visiting,” “riding the crimson wave,” “It’s that time of the month”, “riding the cotton pony,” “the circus is closed,” “the monkey has a nosebleed” are seemingly all phrases saying the same thing. But are they?
Roslyn was inspired by one particular euphemism: “I’m having my garage painted.” (Wow, what a doozy, I’d never heard that one before!) “I thought it would be interesting to take these euphemisms literally and illustration seemed like a perfect medium to do that in. I did a call out for illustrators and eventually rather than just using the images for content on my social media, I thought an exhibition that raised money for the International Women’s Development Agency at the same time would be a great idea!”
Women can have around 450 periods during their lifetime, which equates to around two months a year. And as many girls and women around the world don’t have easy access to sanitary products and health services, it makes ‘that time of the month’ extremely challenging.
“Imagine managing your period with bark or missing 39 days of school every year. That’s not ok. Millions of women and girls around the world face this reality every month, and we want to change that,” says Roslyn. (It’s easy to see why we heart Tsuno).
Shark Week is fabulous show. The illustrations are imaginative and well executed. Some are bold, some are delicate, some are poignant, some are pretty, others are downright hilarious. The blue wall perfectly offsets the red color permeating many of the works. The way the artists chose to interpret menstruation gives us an insight into their personalities. There’s something super personal about the works. (Just like there is about periods.)
Besides the exhibit, there is also a pop-up shop selling cards, jewelry by some of the featured artists, and Tsuno sanitary products (although Roslyn regularly donates 50% of her proceeds to the International Women’s Development Agency, 100% of the proceeds from products sold during the pop-up show will go to the organization).
The jewelry is awesome, featuring—shock! horror! female parts!—in all their glory. I liked the breast and vulva earrings, but went a bit more traditional and picked up some purple hoops by Coco Star Sims (a very talented 18 year old).
“It’s hard to pick favorites,” begins Roslyn when I ask her what her most-loved work is (I don’t blame her, I can’t pick one either), “but I do love both the saying ‘Tears of a disappointed uterus’ and the work that Eirian Chapman created to go with that phrase a lot.”
All works are for sale (although some have already been snapped up), with half the proceeds going to the International Women’s Development Agency.
The exhibition/pop-up show is on at Enough Space Gallery at 2A/127 Greville Street, Prahran, Melbourne, until January 31, 2015. Visiting times are noon–6pm Wed–Fri and Sun, and 10am–4pm Sat.
Main image is entitled “Bloody Mary” by Billie Justice Thompson.