Has inequality got you down? Need a pick-me-up? Look no further than Hana Shafi’s affirmation series. This poet, illustrator, and author, who also goes by, has built a following with her creative comebacks about feminism, mental health, and body image. Her first book, , explores issues including anxiety, relationships, and identity, through poetry and illustrations, and she’s currently working on a second. So, when the Foundation reached out to ask if she would create a mural to capture the spirit of the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s , we were happy that she grabbed her spray paint and jumped on board.
Q: When you created the Tireless mural, what imagery and themes were important for you to convey?
A: It was important for me that the image represent diversity—a lot of mainstream feminist artwork has left women of colour, gender non-conforming folks, elderly women, disabled women, and other communities out of the picture. It was important for me, with the limited time and space I had, to paint a diverse array of folks, because every woman’s story is uniquely different, includes different struggles and intersectionalities.
Q: How does gender equality play a role in your work?
A: As a queer artist of colour, it’s really important for me to take up space with my artwork and to think critically about the ways that people like me, and people of different backgrounds and experiences, are often excluded from mainstream art spaces, and even excluded from a lot of gender equity activism. I take up space with my work, I’m unapologetic with it, I take a stand with it.
Q: When was a time that you defied a gender stereotype?
A: For me, a lot of this has to do with not just a gendered stereotype but a racist stereotype too. I’m a Muslim woman, and people have certain stereotypes or expectations of Muslim women. Sometimes I feel that our very existences as marginalized women are defying gender stereotypes, because we are showing that we are multi-dimensional complex people, instead of simply objects or inspiration/trauma porn.
Q: What does being “tireless” mean to you?
A: To me, it is an acknowledgement that this is exhausting, difficult work. It doesn’t mean that we don’t get tired, but it does mean that we understand that there is a long way to go towards gender equity, including dismantling other systems of oppression that are intrinsically tied to patriarchy—like racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and more.
The people in the fight towards gender equity do work that is very complex, and that has to take into account the vast multitude and experiences of diverse women. We acknowledge that even when we take breaks, rest, and care for ourselves and act other, we’re not suddenly going to say “Hey, our work is done! We don’t need to do any more.” That’s the meaning of tireless work.
Q: What is one aspect of gender equality that you are motivated to tirelessly work toward?
A: I want to see gender equality that is committed to taking down other forms of discrimination, and a form of gender equality that is critical of capitalism and the way it perpetuates systemic oppression of all kinds. I think a lot of the Martin Luther King Jr. quote “No one is free until we are all free.” This is what motivates me.
Q: Who or what inspires you to be tireless?
A: It would take forever to list the people. My friends, artists, writers, creatives of all types, activists, mothers, kids, and so on. People inspire me to be tireless!
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This post is part of the Meet The Tireless series: interviews featuring inspiring people and groups who use their talents, expertise, and resources to help advance gender equality in Canada. Visitto find out what you can do.