On activism and mental health

By Jesse DhurMisch Pautsch

Concluding our series on the male gaze in art and film, Jennifer Lopes Santos of the Afro-feminist Papaya Seeds Collective shares her views on what it means to be a Black female artist in Luxembourg, on the de-masking of identity and on art as a sacred space.

There is always a power dynamic at play in the act of looking and being looked at. Since the work of feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey, the male gaze has become a shorthand for critiquing the objectifying ways in which patriarchy looks at women. More recently, inspired by black activists and scholars such as bell hooks and Tina M. Campt, the oppositional or black gaze have addressed how non-white women have been victims of historical sexualised and racialised projections, but also how they've resisted these narratives and practices. Jennifer Lopes Santos has only recently begun to incorporate questions of Blackness and identity into her art. A 36-year-old visual, textile and movement artist, she currently divides her time between Luxembourg and Brussels. Born and raised in Luxembourg of Cape Verdean descent, she grew up with the burden of being the 'other' in a predominantly white and racist Luxembourg. In 2022, she founded the Afro-feminist Papaya Seeds collective affiliated with Kulturfabrik Esch, which combines the mediums of dance, text, sound, installation and textile, focusing on the mental health of people affected by racism and systemic patriarchy.

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