Making 'Rapist Lane' Safe Again
The world was horrified at the report last year of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi that was so brutally gang-raped that she died of her injuries. India is struggling to find ways to resolve and even understand the scale of sexual violence that plagues the country. Through exploring art as an activation for positive social change Jasmeen Patheja has started a grass-roots movement to disrupt the status quo.
Jasmine attended one of the city's best schools, and went on to study psychology, before being admitted to the highly respected Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore. She has always had a passion to harness creativity for positive change. As a young girl she recalls making and distributing posters asking people to keep the city clean. As a child she was confused and frustrated at the social acceptance of sexual harassment. She remembers walking to school in her school uniform and being harassed and intimidated by men. Many of her friends at college had similar fearful childhood memories, and this drove her to explore the cultural problem further.
Her exploration delved into her heartfelt belief that art is a tool for social transformation. This, combined with a fascination for public art, lead her to produce a project entitled 'Blank Noise' an artwork and protest against sexual violence, which would herald the start of a social movement, and hone the focus for her career.
Another of her projects is "Talk To Me", an interactive innovation on the notorious "Rapists' Lane". Volunteers - or 'Action Heroes', as she describes them - engage complete strangers on the street to break down the barriers between the sexes and transform this infamous street to be rebranded "Safest Street."
In an email to CityLab from Atlantic Media Jasmine was quoted as saying "Biases work both ways. There's unsafe and there's a perception of unsafe. Often the unknown is feared, and this makes it unsafe. In this case unknown strangers who were further distanced by socioeconomic class, language, gender were brought together over tea and samosas. It was an open conversation with no agenda or pre-set questions. We need to make ourselves safe by making [other people] familiar instead. It requires a purposeful unclenching of the fist. Fear creates fear. Defence creates defence. We need to build safe cities with empathy."
The "Talk To Me" project is a finalist for the 2015 International Awards for Public Art (IAPA). Jasmine will be presenting at the Cities in a Climate of Change conference Auckland next month.
The defiant floating school
It's hard for most Kiwis to imagine living in a slum. The reality for the 80,000 inhabitants of Makaoko is not just a battle against poverty, but also a vicious Government, relentless storms and rising seas. Makaoko is a maize of flimsy buildings on wooden stilts, located in a marshy, rubbish-filled lagoon at the heart of Lagos - Nigeria's largest city of nearly 40 million people. Like all slums, the structures at Makaoko are increasingly dangerous and seen as an embarrassment by a government intent on destroying then to make room for commerce and skyscrapers. It may be even harder to imagine that, despite its poverty, this is a visually stunning historic fishing settlement established in the 18th century, and since 1987, the city and lagoon have formed a World Heritage Site.
With support from the United Nations Development Programme, Kunle Adeyemi, a Nigerian architect has brought hope and international attention to the battle for the very survival of the Makaoko community. Kunle has built a Floating School to address the communities' needs for education and resilience in the face of the ever-increasing storms caused by climate change. This astonishing, yet affordable, A-frame floating structure is a testament to intelligent sustainable design. It includes composting toilets, rainwater collection and solar power. It also includes a 1,000 square foot play area, class rooms and is buoyant due to 250 plastic barrels.
The school and the entire Makaoko community is illegal - according to the authorities - and in jeopardy of being destroyed, with little concern for its children and inhabitants. The Makaoko Floating School project is not only a symbolic and practical life raft for the 100 students, it is disruptive art shining a light on the plight and survival of some of the most vulnerable people on earth.
The Makaoko Floating School is also a finalist 2015 International Awards for Public Art and will be part of the IAPA global exhibition held at Auckland Art Gallery: 27 June - 6 July 2015
Auckland, New Zealand
A mind-altering experience
The International Award for Public Art (IAPA) exhibition presents the result of a global search for outstanding, socially engaged art projects. Case studies of the top 32 projects from around the world will be exhibited in the Auckland Art Gallery's North Atrium from June 27 - July 6. Finalists include the floating school in Nigeria, a restaurant serving food from countries with which the US is at war, an experimental sexual politics initiative in India and a pavilion for post-earthquake Christchurch represent the rich, challenging, and divergent practice of art making in the public realm.
Co-hosted by Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland, and Shandong University of Art & Design, China, art and its relationship to urban development is the focus of the four day IAPA conference titled " Cities in a Climate of Change: Public Art, and Environmental and Social Ecologies". Art and sustainable social initiatives, art and ecology, and the politics of art and public space are its themes.
1. Cities in a Climate of Change, Public Art, Environmental and Social Ecologies Conference:
July 1 -July 4 2015 - The University of Auckland
2. IAPA Exhibition: Saturday, June 27 - Monday, July 6 - Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
3. Prize giving Gala Dinner: July 1 - Auckland Art Gallery (tickets are available at