Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Breasts for Peace

Yep, you read the headline right. Now go ahead and snicker if you must. But when you’re finished, take just a moment to understand why Lyons artist Sally White King recently invited area women to leave imprints of their breasts on muslin prayer flags at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.

Apparently, when soldiers from the Dagara tribe in the West African nation of Burkina Faso return home from war, they walk through a welcoming line of women, whose bare breasts are considered nurturing symbols that help heal the horrors of war.

“War is not permitted back into the village,” King says. “When I heard the story, it hit me like a lightning bolt, and I wanted to do something with it for the American soldiers who are returning home from war in the Middle East.” And that’s how the Breast Prayers for Peace project was born.

After staging a similar event in Lyons earlier this year, King worked with a friend, Sarah Kinn, who’s BMoCA’s adult-education coordinator, to organize Boulder’s event. About 25 women turned out each time, including several women in their 70s and a mother and her daughter.

“It was definitely a weird experience,” Kinn says, noting that the women were protected from public view while their chests were painted and they made their impressions. But she says the participants were grateful to be given a unique opportunity to show their support for American troops in a way that reverses the objectification of women’s bodies and emphasizes their “power of healing and nurturing.”

It was also “lighthearted and humorous,” Kinn says. “When you get naked with other people, you bond somehow.”

King strung the prayer flags on an 80-foot-long rope, and hopes to find a place to display them soon. “I’m having a blast with this,” she says.

—Michael Whiteman-Jones

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