Alakina Mann’s illustration ‘Sexualite Egalite Liberte’ was recently showcased in London’s “Nasty Women” Exhibition. She talks us through her ideas and thoughts about sexuality and how it has influenced her work.
My drawing practice has always been quite body-lead; how it feels, how I feel about it, it’s the one thing I can trust and have complete authority on. Nobody can tell you what it’s like to live in your own body.
In my bodily exploration I couldn’t help but notice that I kept coming up against a wall, a boundary of my body; sexuality. It was somewhere I didn’t want to go, or to explore or show or talk about with other people, especially not with the level of autobiography that my other drawings exhibit. I basically felt the force of a taboo I think many people feel. I also felt a void externally; of reasonable information around sex, not just mainstream-porn and orgasm tips. There is this inherited protocol about sex which is ‘we all have it, and that’s ok as long as we never really talk about it’ …which is super weird when you think about it because nothing good ever came of keeping something in the dark. So I started reading, thinking, drawing, asking questions of myself and friends. I tried to be non-judgey of myself and what images were coming out of me at the time
This was why being in the Nasty Women London show was so wonderful, it’s like this critical mass of ‘nasty women voices’ being loud about things they’ve felt alone with for so long and silenced about, like the MeToo hashtag.
Since age 12/13 I had sensed that thread of sexual objectification that comes with being female in the culture and climate I’d been brought up in, it trickles into every area of your life to some degree. However I’ve done so much reading and personal work on feminism and body positivity that at this point in my life I could see that bullshit for what it was. What saddened me was how I had kind of denounced or given up on my sexuality, it was something tainted that had been projected and thrust onto me and not something that had come from inside me for my happiness. I wanted to change that. I was tired of being misunderstood, sexually and generally.
I’d been inspired by the emerging field of sexologist, sex therapists and educators, also objectification free, female lead hot porn; inclusive to all body types, orientation, races and genders which is so exciting to see the precipice of these kind and spicy movements. Think ‘Math’ magazine, Cindy Gallop’s ‘Make Love Not Porn’, Sophia Wallace and her Cliteracy campaign (links found below). There’s this weird lie that things that are good for you aren’t fun, that’s just so not true.
One main thread I picked up from reading Naomi Woolf’s ‘Vagina’ and ‘Come As you are’ by Emily Nagoski was that some aspects of female sexuality are different from male, which is wonderful. For so long female biological and sexual differences have been a cage in which to house women. You cannot have true equality without honouring each other’s differences. I feel like we are beginning to celebrate our differences and gaining a voice, which is the start of change.
Sexualite Egalite LIberte, Image courtesy of Alakina Mann
Originally, when working on “Sexualite Egalite Liberte” I wanted to have a blue sky in full colour. I wanted to signify that there was no shame, it was ‘out in the daylight’. However when it came to it, there was something not quite right about the blue, I returned to black and white; which is my natural state of making art but with those pink slime drips running through the image. The drawing is completely open to the viewer, I’m curious about what gut reactions and emotions it stirs in people. It’s deliberately fluid. It can seem playful, fun, sexy and cartoonish in some ways, then it can also be dark and powerful and serious. I think these emotions would compound depending on the viewers state of mind. It’s a kind of private internal experience, between the viewer and the drawing.
I still feel like I don’t have a complete picture about sex, or the full feeling of it. I’m still working and researching, delving into anatomy, doing 3D digital work so hopefully I can image my findings, put them out into the world and see what comes back.
Written by Alakina Mann
Check Ali's project, Anatomy of Pleasures - an insight into the female anatomy and genitalia.