As part of a collaboration with campus club Menstruation REDefined, the University of Saskatchewan Visual Arts Students’ Union is displaying students’ menstruation-themed artwork until the end of January.
The USask chapter of Menstruation REDefined reached out to VASU in 2021 with the idea of an art show to shift perspectives on menstruation. VASU then put out a call for students to contribute to the show and received applications from student artists BJC, Haley Klassen, Karissa Skye, Kas Rea and Lindee Larson. Their work is now on display at the 292 Student Gallery in the Arts Building.
Meerah Abesia, president of VASU and a second-year interactive systems design student, says that the exhibit’s purpose is to destigmatize and normalise menstruation.
“Menstruation REDefined focuses on shedding light on various menstruation stigmas, [which can convey] that periods are a normal part of life and that there shouldn’t be any negative connotations towards that,” Abesia said.
Abesia says that partnering with Menstruation REDefined worked out well.
“VASU owns the 292 Student Gallery. So it was kind of by chance that we had the perfect place for it. I wanted to collaborate with another student group since we had never done that before,” Abesia said.
The artworks can also be found on VASU’s various social media platforms, where they feature a new piece weekly.
One of the pieces, “Menstruation” by Rea, a fourth-year fine arts student studying studio art, showcases a woman’s silhouette centred on a red collage, studded with rain, leaves and flowers.
“I chose the colour red because it’s a very powerful colour and matches blood. Some of the intricate designs connect to nature, because of course, it’s a very natural process,” Rea said.
Another piece on display is a 3D model of red eggs nesting in a pile of jute chords called “Menarche” by Larson, a second-year nursing student.
Larson says that, to her, a period is akin to eggs being passively dropped into a nest without control.
“My artwork is about this concept of how these identities are kind of pushed on us,” Larson said. “So what we can do is we can nest and we can try to make things better for ourselves and for other [people who menstruate].”
Larson feels that period products should be provided for free.
“Period products are something that a lot of [people] struggle to afford, and a lot of people experience period poverty. So in my opinion, period products should be provided to people for free,” Larson said.
Period poverty is the inability to afford menstrual hygiene products, a phenomenon that affects 34% of Canadian women. As a result of period poverty, some people who menstruate may miss school or opt to use unhygienic alternatives that put them at risk of infections.
The Menstruation REDefined organization has been advocating for free period products since the non-profit was started in 2019 by Ryerson student Olivia Karp. It has grown over the past couple of years, expanding with chapters at the U of S and other Canadian universities.
The Menstruation REDefined USask chapter was founded by Hibah Zia, a second-year biomedical sciences student and the club president. Zia says she initiated the chapter to create new opportunities for students to volunteer.
Zia says that Menstruation REDefined USask has a variety of plans to spread menstruation awareness such as advocating for free period products by holding fundraisers and hosting monthly period discussions with the U of S Students’ Union Women’s Centre. She says that future work with VASU is also a possibility.
“I would love to collaborate with VASU in the future, and I Iove how the show turned out.”
Contributors like Larson also have enjoyed the Menstruation REDefined and VASU art show.
“It’s been a great experience [to connect] with other people and learning about their experiences.”
Potential conflict of interest: Copy Editor Hannah Tran is a member of the USask chapter of Menstruation REDefined, but did not contribute to this article. The article topic was selected independently of this. All writers and editors directly involved with the article report no conflicts of interest.
Annie Lu | Staff Writer
Artwork: As Credited