Blushing boundaries

By Jesse DhurLex KlerenPit Reding

Shame has been a faithful companion of humanity since the dawn of civilisation, for better or worse. Indeed, the feeling can mortify and empower us, alike. In matters of sexuality, its ambivalence is particularly glaring. Journal has investigated this all-too-human emotion.

"Filipa, you are not a saint" is the evocative title of the artwork that helped Ana-Filipa Martins have her most important shame-breaking moment to date. The photo shows an iconised portrait of the 28-year-old woman, her naked body barely covered by a shiny white cloth, an allusion to the archetypical binary image of women that oscillates between sexual purity and desirability. "It was all about exposing myself", says the Luxembourgish-Portuguese. "So that no one could break me apart anymore."

The portrait, that was part of her friend and photographer Bruno Oliveira's series called "Atreve-te" ("Dare" in Portuguese ed.) exhibited at the Tramschapp last year, was Ana-Filipa's bold attempt to dare to express who she is, not who others want her to be. While those others might judge the picture or herself as a faux-pas, for her, it was an act of sheer self-empowerment, a liberation from toxic shame relicts tied to female body images and behaviour expectations. "I didn’t have second thoughts about it at all. It's the very same body that is hidden under layers of cloth every day", the calligraphy artist and political coordinator of déi Lénk explains. "In fact, to put all of my shame-related fears to the test, I wanted to make the thing as big as possible."

Between self-mutilation and self-liberation

Printed almost life-size and even scrutinised by the Grand-Duc, the photo was indeed a big deal. Though the project in particular and her art – calligraphy-collages with often feminist messages – in general have helped Ana-Filipa silence her often self-sabotaging inner voice a little more, it hasn’t silenced it completely. Which is a good thing, in her opinion: "Shame also keeps me alert, self-reflective, and respectful. Both in art and in life."

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