Episode 11: The art of activism
Monika Kozub is a photographer and activist based in Berlin, known for her creative project Berlin Boudoir. As an artist and a woman, Monika realised she could use her own skills and experiences to challenge the limiting beauty standards that surround the identity of femininity. Through photoshoots, podcasts, and online conversations, Monika has spent the past three years building a community to raise awareness of menstrual health, body inclusivity, and female rights.
Having captured hundreds of women's portraits, Monika has built a following of fellow advocates who wish to change the limiting notion of womanhood represented in media. From uncensoring menstrual blood to moving past insecurities through photoshoots, Monika is intent on changing the narrow notion of beauty and allowing others to feel good in their bodies and experiences.
Tune into the full episode to hear our host Bx Sassy talk with Monika about abortion rights and defying censorship through limitless creativity.
Monika Kozub is a familiar name to many women living in Berlin. Having started her project Berlin Boudoir before the pandemic, Monika has grown her community of fellow feminists online as well as in person. In doing so, she has expanded her own knowledge and continued to look at the gendered injustices that surround us; from appearance to healthcare, modelling to the marketing of products. Monika uses her work as an artist and activist to call out these issues, while also sharing uplifting messages and imagery through a celebratory, femmecentric style.
Having grown up in Poland, Monika tells us how her upbringing was shaped by a household that believed in love, amongst a culture heavily influenced by Catholicism. By the time she was in her early twenties, Monika was intent on travelling outside of her country to see and experience new people and converations. "The most important aspect of art for me is to show the experiences of another person". These curiosities took her to Portugal, which helped her open up as an artist in a way that defied the limitations Poland placed on her. Today, with the tragic progress of abortion laws being implemented in Poland, Monika explains how these politics have changed her relationship to her country of birth, "I don't want to live in a country when I'm not allowed to decide on my own body." This was a very hard realisation for Monika, shaping her work as an activist and artist today, providing information and encouraging solidarity for those struggling to access abortion services.
The most important part for me, as a feminist, is to acknowledge everyone has privileges and you should recognise your own and act in a way that gives a voice to those less fortunate than you
Forever moving between calming visuals and energetic activist education, Monika has found her own multidisciplinary approach to be a little problmatic regarding growing her career with galleries or media brands. With the "provoative themes" of Monika's work and the aesthetic she has developed, Monika explains how this places her in an awkward limbo land between being a commercial artist and a visual artist exhibited in galleries. This can be a hard area of judgment to navigate as Monika is intent on not retouching her work (which mainstream commercial art can demand), but also desiring to make it accessible to people beyond the confines of the art world. Influenced by people such as Ai Weiwei, Monika explains how "For me, the most amazing art is when it's layered so every person can access the first layer and then, if you want, you can go further, dig deeper".
It is clear how passionate Monika is about her desire to resist the repressive notions of femininity. This sits alongside her work in challenging the taboo around menstruation, as well as confronting and tackling period poverty. During lockdown, Monika reached out to a charity called Social Period. raising awareness of the lack of resources available to menstruating people who struggle to afford products. Using herself as a model, Monika created photographs for the charity to use, showing a fresh image of menstruation and reproductive health. Her work on this topic didn't stop there. Instead, she was encouraged by writer Emma's Barnett (author of 'Period'), to rewrite the script of menstruation. This led Monika to write and film her own song PERIOD (below, and still above).
You have your own vision of the world, your own experiences...and this is reason enough to go out and shout out from the rooftops what you believe in
As Monika continues to build and grow as an artist, she is intent on developing work that will resonate with people. In this way, we have no doubt that Monika will continue to change the lives of her audience, as well as her active models. We encourgae you to check out how Monika is spreading her feminist messages to all woman that they are fabulous as they are. "All women, no matter what age, shape or size, have problems loving the way they look. I knew that as a photographer I can show them they don’t need to change anything to look and feel beautiful. And as a woman I understood what they might feel like – I had problems accepting the way I look until I was 29". We can't wait to see Monika's work evolve and expand, with the ripple effect of conversastional menstruation and the importance of embodying a sense of Sassy confidence.
If you'd like to know more about Monika's work or collaborate with her on a project, be sure to check out her website and learn more about her work today.
Good Body by Mona Hida
Indigenous Cosmology by Bobby Sanchez
Period by Monika Kozub
My Bed by Ketherinha
Meu louco desejo by Dona Onete
Interview by Bethany Burgoyne
Podcast edit by Vanta Collective
Big thanks to our sponsor of this episode inne.io, the incredible Berlin-based hormone-tracking at-home minilab. inne exists to help women and menstruating people make informed decisions about their reproductive health. inne created a special little reader which measures the progesterone you have in your saliva, helping you track when you are most likely to be fertile. inne is offering all you wonderful listeners a 10% discount with the code SASSY10 so you can really treat yourself and your health with extra love today.
Learn more at inne.io