Sakina Saidi

Strong like a woman: a personal and collaborative art project

What does it mean to be a woman?

This question could be answered in so many ways, my thoughts on the subject are fed by the women I met in my life, all the ladies who crossed my path, who inspired me and whom I admire. There is one thing they have all in common; inner strength, this force that no-one would have believed they had but that sublimates their soul in moment of difficulties, of illness, of hopelessness. I realised that to be a woman is to be unapologetically resilient despite everything. It is to persevere in adversity, to be confident enough in one’s self to encourage others to find their inner strength.

When thinking about and looking at the women in my life, I cannot stop myself from thinking: Women are born strong. We deal with pain on a regular basis, dysmenorrhoea (painful cramping, usually in the lower abdomen, occurring shortly before or during menstruation, or both) is something that most women experienced at some stage. To be fair do we talk about that, most of us don’t even know what that word means but we have experienced this pain without showing it. We put on our brave - poker - face and minimise our struggle. We all do the same thing and it is good sometimes to acknowledge it. The point is not to say that there is some kind of superiority of being a woman but to endorse what womanhood is.

For a long time, this world has been a man’s world in which women had to find their place. For millennia women have been described as the weaker sex and society has given men all the tools to ensure it would appear and should be this way.

More and more studies reveal that in times of famine, epidemic and hardship over the past 250 years, women have consistently outlived men. This is modulated by a complex interaction of biological, environmental and social factors. Simply put women are not fragile creatures, they are strong and the world (including women themselves) needs to know it. There is not a sex that is weaker than the other. We are all different but differences don’t mean that one worth less than the other. When I look around me, I realise that womanhood is too often associated with some form of weakness but in reality, when I see all these women in my life I see strength.

My project is to create a series of illustrations showing different facets of female strength. I’m a strong believer in creative cooperation and in the benefit of working with others; thus, I will be working in collaboration with different artists. Each collaboration will bring a different experience, sensibility, and outlook on what it is to be “Strong like a woman”.

For the first collaboration, I worked with the amazing Karina Mansfield. Her work is playful and colourful with a strong personal aesthetic. We joined forces in representing the animal side of the female strength. This resulted in a collaborative illustration showcasing a determined tiger eyed woman with the manifestation of her spirit animal in a rich botanical setting.

We decided to take the message further by creating a limited edition print and giving all the proceed to Plan UK, a charity we both already support and who is working to advance child rights and equality for girls across the world. We want the girls of today to grow and become the strong women of tomorrow.