I’m looking out of the window here in Hebden Bridge and it’s Dreary, Dreary, Dreary! Again! The rain is coming down and our little town is trying so hard to get itself back on it’s feet … but there’s nothing like work to help you get strong and get that sense of purpose back!
In the studio, nothing could be further removed from the grey day outside … putting together the amazing ‘Behind the Mask’ exhibition our floor is covered with the bright, warm colours that typified the mood in our creative sessions at the Women’s Centre. As well as paintings, we are sifting through the women’s poetry and snatches of thoughts and conversations. And I have just been reading Cheryl’s beautifully written response to the last session before the Christmas break – take some time out and have a read, it is the essence of ‘Behind the Mask’ and reveals why the sessions work so well …
“When I came to Behind the Mask I did not know what to expect or who would be there. All I knew was that it would be creative.
What I found was a beautiful mix of women who were in various stages of their journey of self discovery. A mix of cultures, both white British and Muslim women. Women whose paths would have never crossed, let alone spent time with each other had they not attended Behind the Mask. Each special, each unique and each gone through or going through their own personal things. What has struck me is the almost immediate bond between the group. A willingness to be open and honest in our own time, and at our own pace, and to share. I feel that when we walk in that room at Behind the Mask our various masks are left at the door. This is our time. A time when we can be our true selves, without judgement. Where faith nor “community consideration” has no part. All we have here is acceptance, mutual respect, trust and friendship. Another thing that strikes me is that though culturally we are worlds apart, we are not actually that different. We have similar daily struggles, losing one’s identity to everything that we are expected and supposed to be. We all wear the masks, partner, wife, mother, worker or business woman and these, centred with our societies norms and values of being everything to everyone, neglecting the person that our life begins and ends with. Ourselves.
Throughout the course I have noticed many women on their respective journeys who were once reluctant or unable to speak out , had such low confidence in their ability to do anything, develop and rediscover their power, spirit and voice. All have been reignited because their kindling was in the right place. It’s their time to shine.
On Friday I sat in awe as one of the Muslim ladies who had previously been quiet, but recently coming out of her shell more, revealed she sang! Not only that, but sang in front of 700 people in a community meeting. We were taken back at that, this shy quiet and lovely lady had decided to share this with us. Then something amazing happened. She asked if she could sing for us. She sang the most wonderful religious song, with a lovely voice and beautiful in meaning. It was about the prophet coming down and spreading peace and love to everyone on earth irrespective of their beliefs. It was amazing to hear her sing something so personal and cultural to her, something I feel she would not have dared to do a few weeks back. Then something even more wonderful happened she asked to sing at the Behind the Mask exhibition launch. Wow! We loved it, we were blown away. It was extraordinary, almost as if, all of a sudden she had burst into flower. It was fantastic to see this woman who barely had the self confidence to speak to want to share this with us and the rest of the world.
This is just one of the women’s journey…the other women too have developed remarkably…finding out who they are and believing in themselves. That’s the thing about Behind the Mask. Through creativity, art, song, poetry and beauty you learn that you do have a voice, that you are worthwhile and that you are valuable. You can do things you never thought you would be able to do and you learn about yourself.
Creativity, honesty and knowing your true identity transcends any meaning from faith, religion or anything that society’s constraints and values teach us to believe. It brings us down to the one basic thing of what and who we are should we be allowed the chance to grow…..Human.” by Cheryl