Our window display for October had been created by young activists in collaboration with Rumpus Room, Daikon zine and Küche artists on the theme of Food Sovereignty
Foodsovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets.
The Crypto-Knitting-Circles research project took place at Swap Market last year. Lead by Ailie Rutherford and Bettina Nissen, research looked at potential applications of new and emerging technologies within feminist and community currency.
The research publication has been translated to Spanish by Ana Inés Heras and Matías Miguel Burin Heras
Bettina Nissen and Ailie Rutherford are now working on a follow up to this research with the project String Figures to visualise and build a de-centralised open-source network centred on a principle of mutual care
This month’s window display is a call for the reformation of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act
Trans people in the UK currently have to go through a long and humiliating process to get their gender legally changed, which can lead to them being outed and leave them legally vulnerable. There has been a campaign to reform it to make it faster and more accessible, including a period of public consultation earlier this year, which was received positively. The piece includes depictions of the diversity of gender identities and expressions, most of which are loosely based on local trans people the artist knows, and calls for not only the reforms proposed, but a radical inclusion of all gender identities beyond the binary.
Human gender is varied and complex, and the law should not define it so narrowly, and whilst it is not the state’s place to describe the full complexity. It is vitally important in order to protect the rights of trans people (including non binary trans people) that we have ways to gain legal recognition as the genders we truly are.
To learn more about the Gender Recognition Act, and the reforms proposed visit:
The Gender Recognition Act of 2004 is a bill written in response to a European Court of Human Rights ruling that not offering a trans person the opportunity to change their legal gender, infringed their human rights.
Whilst the 2004 bill allows people to change their legal gender, it comes short in a number of ways.
PROBLEMS WITH THE 2004 ACT
* It is heavily medicalised, requiring a medical diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria, this process is often protracted and demeaning. And there is no guarantee that a diagnosis will be acquired – especially in places where trans healthcare is not readily available.
* The trans person is required to have lived in their “new” gender for 2 years, and must document this fact.
* The trans person must submit documentation of this to a Gender Recognition Panel, who they will never meet.
* If the trans person is married, in England and Wales their spouse must consent to the legal recognition, although this is not the case in Scottish law the process is still complicated if spousal approval is unavailable.
* The Act has no provisions for recognising Non-Binary identities of any kind, essentially excluding a large portion of trans people from any form of legal recognition.
* This process is only available for people aged 18 or over, meaning many trans youth are unable to access necessary services and legal protection.
Because of this, currently fewer than 1 in 10 trans people in the UK have legal recognition of their gender identity, this can cause numerous issues for trans people.
Including issues travelling, accessing healthcare, a lack of protection under the equalities act of 2010, leaving them open to prosecution of “sex by deception” if they do not share their trans identity to sexual partners, and for asylum seekers issues around “proving” their trans identity to UK immigration control.
From December 2019 to 17th March 2020, there was a period of public consultation on a reform to the act in Scotland. The reformed bill would be far less hostile to trans people, and while the reform has been halted due to Covid-19, will offer real changes and improvements to the lives of many trans people.
* Remove the current requirement for medical diagnosis.
* Lower the waiting time of 2 years to 3 months, and a following 3 month reflection period.
* Allow people ages 16 and up to apply for this legal recognition.
However the reform will not solve all the issues surrounding the 2004 act, Non Binary genders are still excluded, there are still legal penalties for applications deemed “fraudulent”, and asylum seekers are still at risk.
A society where the diversity of human gender is celebrated,
protected, and recognised. Including non-binary identities, gender
non-conforming trans people, trans asylum seekers and refugees, and
Joy Buolamwini, the poet of code combines art and research to
illuminate the social implications and harms of AI. She founded the
Algorithmic Justice League to create a world with more ethical and
inclusive technology and fight against the Coded Gaze, uncovering
large racial and gender bias in AI services from companies like
Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.
AI systems are used to decide who gets hired, the quality of medical
treatment we receive, and whether we become a suspect in a police
investigation. While these tools show great promise, they can also
harm vulnerable and marginalized people, and threaten civil rights.
Unchecked, unregulated and, at times, unwanted, AI systems can amplify
racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination.
We will be watching these two short videos to draw from and discuss:
For the July window display of the Swap Market, I interpreted through drawing an influential female Mesopotamian folk creature, Shahmaran, who is half woman and half snake, and believed to bear the power to cure through her knowledge of herbal medicine and wisdom. I have chosen this figure particularly for its optimistic significations as ‘the cure’, at such uncertain times, in which we were hit not only by Covid19’s physiological consequences , but also the loss of well-being through extensive gender and racial discrimination as a result of the ‘politics’ of this pandemic. I wish Shahmaran ‘the medicine woman’ may become the symbol for cure and wellbeing to the communities in Govanhill, during her time on Swap Market’s window.
Although Shahmaran’s healing powers are not in question in any variations of the story, the widely accepted narrative itself has problematic, underlying male dominant connotations. Different variations of her story feature in Farsi, Turkish, Iraqi, and Kurdish folklore, yet all these narratives eventually yield to the ratification of the male character’s upper-hand status, which he gains through betraying Shahmaran.
However imposing she sounds – as the medicine goddess who has the power to cure, to kill and to transcend; Shahmaran, in the narrative’s classical form, is depicted as the “other” which positions man against woman, human against beast, culture against the forces of nature, and the “above ground” forces of male dominance against the female forces of the subterranean.
According to the traditional narrative, the queen of Marans, Shahmaran, comes across Camasb, a young man who was looking for the greatest quality of honey, deep down in a cave. Camasb falls in love and decides to stay there with Shahmaran, and learns the secrets of herbal medicine from her, while gaining her trust. Camasb then misses living above ground and wants to leave; he promises Shahmaran that he will not share the secret of her living there.
After years, the Sultan becomes ill and the vizier discovers that the treatment of his illness requires the flesh of Shahmaran. Camasb betrays Shahmaran, and informs the palace about where she lives. The forgiving Shahmaran wants to help Camasb, and ‘victimises’ herself by telling him to boil her body, give her extract to the vizier, and feed her flesh to the Sultan. In other variations of the story Shahmaran is dissected into pieces, and each dissected part has different powers: curing, killing and wisdom. The two-part split representation of my Shahmaran takes its inspiration from this version of the narrative. Eventually, Shahmaran gets killed; the Sultan eats her flesh and lives, the vizier drinks the extract and dies. Finally, Camasb ‘ingests’ the water of Shahmaran and unfairly becomes the legendary medicine man “Lokman Hekim”, by seizing Shahmaran’s wisdom, and her curing magic. In a way, he embodies Shahmaran’s powers within his male human body.
On the other hand, despite the unjustifiable victory of the male figure in the story, Shahmaran, whose flesh has been ingested by men to seize her wisdom, today has become omnipresent through the countless reproductions of her image. For centuries, Shahmaran pictures have decorated walls of houses in the Anatolian region of Turkey; crafted through a traditional folk glass painting technique called ‘camalti’. These pictures of Shahmaran are believed to bring wealth and health to the household, which means she still holds the power of knowledge through the reproduction of her image; through expansion. Therefore, the male dominant narrative of this folk story has been deconstructed by another folk ritual which attributes a feminist reading to the story. In contemporary Turkey, women wear this image on their t-shirts, carry on their handbags, and on their necks as necklaces. In this way Shahmaran is embodied in many Anatolian women. As an artist originating from Turkey, I keep my very own Shahmaran representation on our wall as a good luck charm for our household.
For my window display, I referred to the traditional ‘camalti’ painting technique and drew Shahmaran split between both windows, in order to broaden her imagery to reach a wider audience. Her image is accompanied by a short but empowering version of the story in poetry form that I have written, and this is integrated into the image, ascribed to the flow of Shahmaran’s lines. This text appears in four languages spoken in Mesopotamia; Turkish, Kurdish, Farsi and Arabic as well as the English version ascribed on the opposite window.
The poem is as follows:
Shahmaran was her name, she was the queen of snakes.
She was the cure, the death, and the wisdom.
She was many, and her flesh was power.
Man betrayed her, but she became omnipresent.
Şahmaran’dı adı, yılanların şahıydı.
êr pê re xayîn derket lê ew li ser xwe ma û li her derê
Deniz Uster at work on the new Swap Market window for this month depicting the Mesopotamian folk creature Shahmaran; half woman-half snake, with the power to cure, kill and transcend. Shahmaran’s story features in Farsi, Turkish, Iraqi, and Kurdish folklore
“Capitalsim As A Virus” drawing by Ailie Rutherford for The People’s Bank of Govanhill with input and inspiration from members of Community Economies Research Network, Feminist Economics Department and Guerilla Media Co-op
We are looking to commission four artists or collectives to decorate the Swap Market windows over the months of July, August, September and October this year.
The Swap Market exchange hub will remain closed due to covid and social distancing in these coming months but we will be opening the shutters to use the shopfront to communicate with local residents and passers by.
Previous Swap Market window displays have illustrated Feminist Economics, highlighted Youth Climate Action, depicted Capitalism As A Virus, celebrated Eid, Chinese New Year, Labour Day and the Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. See images below for examples of window drawings by artists Rae-Yen Song, Ailie Rutherford and young activists.
The People’s Bank of Govanhill and Feminist Exchange Network stands in solidarity with all those who are challenging racism and violence against the black community. We endorse the statement from The National Economic Association (NEA) the Caucus of Black Economists founded to formalize the struggle to research, analyse, understand, and address the systematic and institutionalized practices of anti-Black racism generating the economic and social inequalities oppressing the Black community. Since its founding, NEA scholars have been leaders in researching and exposing the structural conditions by which U.S. racial inequality and oppression creates and perpetuates a desperate and unsafe reality for Black and Brown communities, in the U.S. and around the world.