My mentor Sharyn Dowd had a fundraiser recently to help raise money and awareness of a solution to female genital mutilation with her campaign:
End Genital Cutting for Pokot Girls
The ceremony of genital cutting is an important right of passage for many girls including the Pokot Girls. One solution to the persistent use of fgm in ceremony is to create another ceremony that does not include the potentially dangerous and painful cutting, but does enable the important life transition.
I wanted to help so I offered to make a piece of art to auction for funds. After receiving a barrage of photos of content ranging from sunsets, to landscape and pictures of many Kenyan women, I was thoroughly confused about how to proceed.
I am adamant about not exploiting images in an irresponsible way, but wanted to help. I reached out to a favorite professor of mine Dr. Emmanuel Lartey. He teaches pastoral care in many contexts and I took an interfaith pastoral care class with him, so I knew that he would be culturally sensitive.
He suggested that I use imagery that alludes to Oshun- instead of tokenizing one women’s photo. I knew that was a great idea. Oshun carries much significance throughout Africa. Oshun is goddess of fertility and healing. She is protector of the abdomen and is represented with images of water.
One traditional Christian might wonder if Oshun is incompatible with Christianity and I will have to adamantly protest this way of thinking. Cultural imagery cannot be circumvented or denied. Many layered belief systems and intersections of images work together to bring a more fuller picture of the whole of God.