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Why are we still uncomfortable saying VAGINA?

Hello readers, my name is Gina... pronounced differently to va[gina], but nonetheless a glorious extension of this magical portal. I used to feel so uncomfortable when people would tease and twist my name to be synonymous with vagina; but that shame is no more baby! Pussy power prevails and is pushing out the patriarchy!

As an extension of Episode 5 of the CAYACast, this blog serves to highlight and extend the conversation that we had with Vaginarium team members, Kelly Grobler (Captain Kelz) and Livia Schneider.

Photo by Steven Morrow

For those of you who are not familiar with The Vaginarium project - a brain child of many - it was conceptualised in 2019 at the height of the anti-Gender-Based Violence movement in South Africa. It was a moment in which the need for a space to honour and celebrate the divine feminine was dire. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, the Vaginarium would only be shared with the world at AfrikaBurn in 2022. As project that grew in scale over the two and a half years, so did the necessity for dialogue around uplifting and celebrating the feminine.

The Vaginarium was funded by a grant from AfrikaBurn and donations, as well as kick starters, parties, thrift markets and more. A team comprised of about 22 glorious humans, worked tirelessly to materialise the structure into the striking pink pussy that undoubtedly left its mark on the hearts and souls of those privileged enough to witness the structure in all its glory out in the dusty desert.

Video supplied by Kerryn Opperman

What statement did you want The Vaginarium to make?

"To put that into one sentence has been the constant struggle of this project, but basically the kind of all encompassing word was rebirth, and I think that is very fitting because it is the rebirth of our dialogue, of the way that we interact with one another, between masculine and feminine, and the way we speak to ourselves even" - Kelly

Through observing and interacting with the structure, The Vaginarium hoped to spark this 'rebirth' of the narrative and conversation around vaginas and the feminine more broadly. Vaginas are intersectional and multidimensional; yet they have been turned into sites of pain and abuse rather than celebrations of life and pleasure. Furthermore, the vagina holds numerous socially constructed connotations, many of which are shrouded in shame, notions which need to be interrogated in safe spaces, such as the one facilitated by The Vaginarium. The complexities of who was allowed into the space were not taken lightly. Kelly noted that this was a question that each person needed answer for themselves. However the basic premise was that the outside of the vagina and the slide was open to all. The womb-like inside was reserved as a safe space for women identifying persons to be vulnerable, heal, celebrate the feminine over shared experiences. There were apprehensions as to how this would be regulated, but Kelly and Livia noted that the space became self governed, and that there was a great sense of respect for boundaries offered by the men who passed by the structure.

Photo by Lorcan Berg

How did people react to the structure?

"For me one of the most meaningful and special moments was on the Monday when we were still finessing with the internal decor...and I was lying inside in this beautiful, velvety vagina and I heard people start to arrive, and you know [you could hear] that sheer wonderment of like, 'is that a vagina?' - Kelly

Photo by Lorcan Berg

Speaking on how people experienced and navigated the structure, Livia noted that initially some people were confused as to why there was a sculpture of a vagina, but as the festival progressed and there more more activations such as a vagina drawing workshop, a yoni gazing workshop, as well as yoga and mediation sessions, these perceptions changed.

How did it feel watching that baby burn?

"It was the most incredible relief... cathartic" - Kelly

"It was almost like a climax, because we got these pyro guys - these two crazy motherfuckers - they were literally walking around with a suitcase full of explosives and they were so excited, they were like 'we are going to put fireworks on the clit and we are going to do this and this', and we were like oh my goodness, just go" - Livia

The ashes may be scattered across the dessert, but like a phoenix, the vag too will rise. This is by no means the end of The Vaginarium project, the team intends to keep the spirit and intent of the project alive in different iterations in the future! Make sure you follow the The Vaginarium on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with their vag(antics).


Gina Alpert

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