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Festival of the Vagina comes to Sydney

29 June marks Australia's second ever Festival of the Vagina


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On 29 June 2013, Sydney will host Australia's second Festival of the Vagina. The first was held in Melbourne in March as part of the 101 Vagina Book Launch and Exhibition, and attracted around 1000 visitors.

The Festival of the Vagina brings together Sydney's diverse artists, educators, performers, and musicians, with the common purpose of removing the taboo and shame that many people still feel around their genitalia.

The curator of the festival, Philip Werner, is also the creator of the 101 Vagina project, a coffee-table book comprising of 101 beautiful black and white photos of vaginas taken front on in a standing pose. Rather than intending to shock, the book embraces the sharing of story, experience and wisdom with each photograph being accompanied by a message from each of the women about her vagina to the world.

One of the highlights of the Festival of the Vagina will be the 101 Vagina Exhibition, in near life-size format. The exhibition parallels the book by aiming to break down the taboo surrounding vaginas and the shame many woman feel about their sexuality by generating dialogue and acceptance.

The award winning artist collective, 107 Projects, will play host to this unique event in Sydney in its spacious gallery at 107 Redfern Street, Redfern.

The book took over two years to complete and a successful crowd funding campaign funded the first print run. Now published by Taboo Books, 101 Vagina is available for sale online at the 101 Vagina website and selected bookshops.

According to Werner, 101 Vagina and the Festival of the Vagina are about "breaking down the taboos and body image shame that prevent so many women from feeling comfortable with their bodies. Various media are awash with messages that women are not fine the way they are, but instead, need to buy this product or have that operation, in order to become 'normal'."

"It's rubbish. One outrageous example is that while most women's labia minora protrude from their labia majora, Australian censorship law prevents such normal vaginas from being shown in soft-core, unclassified porn. They have to be airbrushed away. Our law! And cosmetic surgeons are offering to do physically what Photoshop does virtually. 

All this needs to change and there are many movements afoot to counter these ignorant censorship decisions and commercially exploitative interests. The Large Labia Project tumblr blog, another Australian project, recently gained widespread international media attention for showing the world a real picture of how normal women look. There are vagina crafternoons, where crafty types get together to sew, bake, knit, or paint genitalia. Many educational workshops, events and sex therapists are all working to correct the distorted messages. 

There is also increasing debate about why we ban female genital mutilation, while plastic surgeons are allowed to charge tens of thousands for labiaplasty, as if that is not female genital mutilation. Not to mention male genital mutilation, circumcision. 

In this milieu, 101 Vagina and the Festival of the Vagina are confronting, delighting, uniting and dividing people in equal measure. Some feminists are decrying another “man exploiting women”, while others are lauding the creation of more body acceptance and dialogue. Some sex educators have criticised the book for showing only black and white “closed leg' photos rather than up close colour images, while others are celebrating the depiction of all shapes and sizes and the sharing of powerful stories. Some take delight in the celebration, others feel confronted. The vagina draws powerful responses from many quarters. 

Attendees will find themselves surrounded by the 101 photos taken for the 101 Vagina book over the course of two years, along with the 101 stories, messages written by the women from or about their vaginas to the world. Other artists work will also be on display, including works from the day's crafternoon activities. The evening will then see a variety of workshops, speakers, performers and musicians contribute their take on what vagina love means to them and why it's important.

Philip Werner, a Melbourne based photographer and peace activist, has also begun work on the 101 Penis project.

Festival of the Vagina:
Saturday 29 June, 2013
12 – 5pm.
http://festivalofthevagina.com

101 Vagina Exhibition: (Book available online)
Thu 27 – Sun 30 June, 2013
12 – 5pm
http://101vagina.com

Venue:
107 Projects: 107 Redfern St. Redfern

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