The Stoned Chrysalis

For the Woke and Waking

Interview with Noni Cragg of The Rough Period

Aimee Vincent
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Noni Cragg: Noni is an incredible woman, artist, model, indigenous activist and now a not for profit grass roots organiser... Her newest venture ‘The Rough Period’ has a mission that is as simple as it is necessary: To provide Sydney’s homeless women with safe sanitary products

I know you are very aware of the systematic racism within this country - particularly towards First Nations People. I’d love to know what your experience been like within the art world and the general white washed world as an indigenous woman in this country? 

(Feel free to drop some much needed knowledge for those who are unaware of Australias deeply racist roots)

 

It isn't difficult to see that Australia is a deeply racist and sexist country and the the Art World within does not escape this fact. There are a lot of issues with gallery representation, press coverage, auction price differentials and inclusions in permanent-collection displays and solo-exhibition programs. 

"The more closely one examines art-world statistics, the more glaringly obvious it becomes that, despite decades of postcolonial, feminist, anti-racist, and queer activism and theorizing, the majority continues to be defined as white, Euro-American, heterosexual, privileged, and, above all, male. Sexism is still so insidiously woven into the institutional fabric, language, and logic of the mainstream art world that it often goes undetected." - Maura Reilly 

ArtReview’s 2016 Power 100 list of the “most influential people in the contemporary art world” was 32% women, 70% white, and 51% European. Currently over 75% of Students in the Arts in Australia are Female, but we are still not seeing equal representation or investment when we consider that in 2011 of the top 100 Auction Sales that year, all artists were male. Society still reveres predominately white, heterosexual, priviledged males in the arts and they get paid a lot. ANGSW even makes these attitudes clear when we consider The Indigenous Collection is pretty much in the basement and women artists only make up 34% of the collection in Australian State Museums.

Galleries like Boomali, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency Aboriginal Corporation and collectives such as The Guerrilla Girls and The Ladies Network exist out of a necessity to provide a platform for artists who are otherwise severely under represented if at all. Also looking at Australian Media and News Outlets we see the damaging and disrespectful portrayals of Aboriginal People and people of ethnic backgrounds in Australia. If it is not straight up racism and sexism, it is people being passive and pretty much giving consent through their silence because they probably benefit in some way from the established system.

 

 

It is so important to show up for First Nations people whether it be protesting, sharing knowledge and making sure to always call bullshit when faced with racism and bigotry. What kind of role has this activism played in your life?

 

Activism is about being present in your community and taking action to bring about political and social change. Silence and inaction is consent to injustice. Protesting and sharing knowledge is so important for facilitating change. Activism has shown me that plenty of people want change and that we are capable of it but you've got to be willing to fight for it and be loud about it.

 

How have you weaved your culture into your artwork and has art helped you to explore culture or vice versa? 

 

Art has undoubtedly helped me explore not only my own culture but the culture of others, in particular that of first nations people. It is important to learn about not only your own customs, traditions, land, lore, religion/spirituality, history, celebrations and ceremonies but those of other cultures as well. I take most of my inspiration from these elements of culture of each person who sits for me.

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Modelling. Lets talk about it. You’re probably one of the realest bitches I know, whats your opinion on diversity within the modelling industry?

 

The Australian fashion Industry for the most part is not choosing models of colour for their runways, there are very few women of colour on the runway at Fashion Week each year. In 2014 the first Indigenous Fashion Week was held and the following year when interviewed whether the industry supported Indigenous women this is what Supermodel Samantha Harris had to say "Indigenous Fashion Week happened last year. I saw so many beautiful Aboriginal girls. I don't understand why there aren't more young [Aboriginal] girls on the catwalk,"  The fact the event was seperate from MBFWA is disappointing in itself. The Fashion Industry is more talented at appropriating culture often choosing tokenism over legitimate representation. Diversity and representation matter and many of the models and designers that are challenging industry standards are often neglected and rarely acknowledged by mainstream News and Media Outlets.

 

Now brings us to your newest venture; The Rough Period. Can you please tell us about this incredibly simple but so damn important concept:

 

The Rough Period consists of Jasmine Coronado, Amber Sisson and myself. We have a very simple objective and that is to provide women sleeping rough in Sydney with safe and clean sanitary items. No woman should have to choose between food and essential menstruation items due their period. We want our work to challenge the way Australian’s talk about periods and homelessness as well as hopefully remove some of the stigma and taboo status around issues of Womens Health and Homelessness.

 

What inspired this initiative and could you drop some knowledge about female homelessness within this country?

Jasmine Coronado and myself discussed an image I reposted on Facebook of a handbag with a caption suggesting that rather than throw away old handbags you could fill them with essential items for ladies and give them to women sleeping rough in your city. We got chatting to some our mates and had them donate pads, tampons and toiletries. Later that month the week before Christmas Jasmine and I went out to distribute these care packages and found that the issue was even larger than we initially imagined. Part of the problem I think is due to the fact our government doesn't prioritise or value its female citizens the same way it does men. There are not only more services and beds available to the male homeless population but also facts such as the Government being happy to provide free condoms but not tampons or pads, and that these are taxed as a luxury item suggests these issues of gender imbalance are low priority. Also I feel there is a misconception that homelessness primarily effects men but this is total bullshit when you consider that statistics from an RMIT University study revealed that about 1.4 million of us have slept rough while homeless, revealing that around 11 percent of women had experienced sleeping rough at some point in their lifetime. “We found about 900,000 men and 500,000 women – or 7.8 per cent of the population – have slept rough in parks or improvised dwellings, in their lifetime,” - RMIT’s Emeritus Professor Chris Chamberlain.

 

How has the Rough Period been received by sisters around Sydney?

The Rough Period has seen almost only positive comments from the ladies we provide care packages too, we occasionally hear comments from a disgruntled bloke or two, but once we explain what we are doing they are generally quite supportive. and will often then point out where there are more ladies for us to reach. The Aunties and Uncles that are respected within these communities are often the ones most vocal about pointing the importance and value of a project such as this.

Have you had much support from the community?

The support from the community has been outstanding and just increases constantly. We’ve seen businesses show their support to our project in so many different ways. Daisy’s Milkbar in Petersham currently has a donation bin. We’ve had the Courthouse Hotel in Camperdown support us through their fundraising efforts with Young Henrys as well as The Cricketers Arms Hotel who will be hosting us this International Womens Day for a Fundraiser. Supporters of these events include Grifter, Camp Cove Swim, Service on Oxford St and Sydney Label Serpent and The Swan.

How can we help?

There is a donation bin at Daisy’s Milk Bar 340 Stanmore Road Petersham. You can donate Tampons, Regular pads, Overnight pads, Wet wipes, Tissues, Paw Paw, Roll on deodorant, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Soap/body wash, Hair ties, Moisturiser andShampoo/Conditioner. We encourage the purchase of ethical brands and travel sizes for toiletries to keep care packages light for the ladies.  You can drop products for care packages at this location during business hours. Supporters can also direct message the Instagram page for a postal address to send donations.

We also have a fundraiser at The Cricketers Arms this International Womens Day 8th March. Supporters can bring products to donate as well as cash donations. We will also have a raffle where you could win a voucher for Camp Cove Swim or Service. You can also buy merchandise or a drink as all proceeds from these will be going towards care packages and helping The Rough Period on its way to becoming a legal Not For Profit organisation.

 

Where can people contact you?

Supporters can contact us through our Instagram page and direct message us for further information. We hope to have a website available in the coming months. @theroughperiod

Thank you so much for your time and for sharing a little part of yourself and the amazing things you do x

 

You can find more via Noni's website here