Xewka F’Qalbi Xewka F’Sormi: the journey from victimhood to survivorship

LAURA CALLEJA speaks to curator Rachelle Deguara about Xewka F’Qalbi Xewka F’Sormi a collective exhibition celebrating 10 years of the Women’s Rights Foundation. Curated by Deguara and developed conceptually with Emma Agius, the exhibition features twelve different artists exploring the subject of rape culture, a culture which normalises or trivialises sexual assault or/and abuse

Can you explain the inspiration behind this exhibition?

The inspiration for this exhibition came from the importance of addressing a subject matter that aligns with the mission of our Women's Rights Foundation, as we celebrate 10 years since its establishment. Collaborating with artist Emma Agius, we carefully considered and chose the concept of addressing rape culture and the journey from victimhood to survivorship. Through several productive meetings and getting to know Emma and her art practice, we agreed on the name Xewka F'Qalbi, Xewka F'Sormi.

What does the exhibition hope to achieve?

The objective is to amplify the voices of the artists while also promoting the initiatives of the Women's Rights Foundation. The exhibition strives to provoke thoughtful dialogue about societal attitudes towards rape culture within the local community, drawing upon the efforts of the Women’s Rights Foundation. The aim is to foster discussions on the importance of consent, education, and prevention.

Can you tell us more about the name?

The name, Xewka F'Qalbi, Xewka F'Sormi, arose from our regular discussions that have been ongoing since April. During these conversations, we analysed Emma's sketches and noticed the intricate details, which reminded us of thorns. It was during one of these discussions that Emma shared the occurrence of sexual abuse during Lady of Sorrows Day. This led us to explore the artistic concept further and connect with other artists, ultimately realising the significance and potential of our project.

In subsequent meetings, we delved deeper into the aftermath of abuse and Emma's desired state of mind. We explored how art can serve as a vehicle for healing, and how this transformative process is reflected in the artwork presented in this exhibition. Our discussions progressed beyond personal trauma and encompassed a broader societal perspective. We envisioned a world where such pain no longer holds power over us, where it becomes a minor inconvenience akin to a thorn in one's side.

During the process of curating this exhibition, did anything surprise you?

Addressing the topic of rape culture is undoubtedly a challenging task, both in terms of understanding and visual representation. Rape exposes the enduring inequality present in our society, as well as in others. It is an act rooted in power and control, disproportionately affecting women and girls. The survivors of rape carry deep wounds and trauma, often hidden due to the shame associated with the experience.

I was pleasantly surprised by the level of trust, bravery, and openness exhibited by the artists and other collaborators throughout this project. It became clear to me that this undertaking held great importance and provided a platform for the expression of numerous stories through art.

After encountering challenges in locating a suitable venue for this art exhibition, we are extremely grateful for the warm welcome we received at Rosa Kwir Gallery. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to our hosts, the talented artists Roxman and Charlie.

What should the audience expect from this exhibition?

Please note that the exhibition covers sensitive topics such as rape and violence. While some individuals might find it healing, it's important to consider that others may be traumatised by it. The audience should anticipate encountering genuine emotions and raw feelings conveyed through various artistic mediums. If one allows themselves to truly engage with the exhibition, it has the potential to leave a lasting impression.

Do you have a favourite piece from the exhibition, or rather, a piece that stands out to you?

It can be quite challenging to select a favourite piece, acknowledging the collaborative effort and collective creativity involved in developing most of the works. Moreover, I am particularly proud of the title associated with this project.

Xewka F’Qalbi Xewka F’Sormi is a collective exhibition by Emma Agius, Isaac Bezzina, Silke Debanant, Nicole Sciberras Debono, Nik Ebejer, Saaqia, Claire Farrugia, Shanice Farrugia, Robin Cassar Fiott, Sam Vassallo Francesca Zammit and X.