"My Story": That is the title of the art exhibit being featured at the Image Factory. The exhibit centers on the challenges and burdens homosexuals face in a homophobic society. It is a topic that has sparked debate across different sectors of society but according to artist Briheda Haylock, her aim is not to fuel that debate or evoke sympathy or pity, but to reveal the stories that have been buried by fear and discrimination.
Courtney Weatherburne reporting
Many Belizeans are walking in his shoes. Feeling hopeless and alone.
And artist Briheda Haylock wants to tell her story and the story of those who face this reality every day.
Briheda Haylock, Artist
"The process of this show was going to meet the LGBT community and they are everywhere, so what me and Caleb did, because he is the one who found me to do this show - we went and we met up with them, it's not only Belize City. I went to Orange Walk and I met other people of the community and these are the people who are brave enough to say participate because it's a very touchy subject and the fear of being victimized in under shoulders and so the ones that were brave, we sat down and we talk about their journey because we all have a journey when it comes to self-discovery, so when you come in, you see the my story and the my story reflects those interviews of them giving you their coming out story or what they were going through, because you know what, because someone is gay doesn't makes it easy for them."
And it surely wasn't easy for Nicki, Daniel or any of the participants in this exhibit.
Although their family accepts them…society? Not quite..
Briheda Haylock, Artist
"The reason I put the paper bag is because that's what's society does to a LGBT person - you cover our faces, your shun us. So, it's not like we have an identity. The only identity you see is lesbian or homosexual and you know, it's not that, we are human beings. I started the show that way, to show people how we feel when you are just seeing our sexuality, because as you go along the show, the papers bags come off and you do see that warm, that comfort, that support that you get from other people who aren't so narrow minded. They say oh we want to put our sexuality out there, but we just want to have the same privilege, like going out to dinner - I could hold my partner's hand and not feel weird or like I'm going to be pointed at or laughed at or even stoned at or something like that, because some people have different experiences and its unfair that you have to stay behind closed doors or not feel proud of who you are with."
Being proud of who you are and who you are with is the theme of this segment of the exhibit. These frames should portray normal familial and societal interactions but in reality, it is seen as taboo.
Shelby Castillo, Collaborating Artist
"My topic I use is "outcast" - like an outcast to society. People treat you like a monster and I use elements from what I see before and collaborate it in my film, the animation. This thing happens in Belize. It's not strange to anyone. It's not rear occurrence - it happens everywhere and people needs to know that this happens in our own country. So, this exhibit is to show people that this is happening and we need to do something about it."
The Art exhibit opens tomorrow at 7 at the Image Factory.
Art Exhibition Sheds Light on Plight of LGBT Community
There is another event taking place in the city over the weekend. An exhibition entitled “My Story” opens at the image factory on Friday. Not many L.G.B.T. persons are open about their lifestyle choices because they are sometimes shunned by society and their own families. To reduce the stigma associated with being a L.G.B.T., UNIBAM’s Caleb Orozoco sought the help of Artist Briheda Haylock to help in the sensitization process. Haylock used photographs to capture the story of the struggles of members of the L.G.B.T. community and also the triumphs of their acceptance. A short film by Shelby Castillo also drives the point home. Andrea Polanco reports.
Briheda Haylock, Artist
“I was on the bus once and I had my rainbow bag and if you know what the rainbow symbolize, you know what exactly my sexuality is. This girl sat next to me and saw the bag; she looked at it and moved. She was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a lesbian.’ I felt a little hurt. That was the first time I experienced it.”
In Belize, the subjects of sexuality and gender identity are still considered taboo in some factions of society. So much so that it promotes discrimination, breeds fear and instills ignorance. But artist Briheda Haylock is using her creative talents as a platform to encourage inclusiveness and to remove the labels attached to members of the LGBT community. Her artistic pieces captured moments and wove them into this exhibition call ‘My Story.’
“The show is about highlighting the LGBT Community and what they go through or what their journey is with self discovery. It’s not the same. Everyone has their own journey. Being part of the LGBT Community is a different issue because it has been highly exaggerated as wrong. Today what I have done is shown you in an abstract and literal way what it is to be an LGBT person coming out or in the closet; showing you what we face and when we have acceptance how things are for us.”
The people in ‘My Story’ represent different parts of society; after all, Haylock says they are just like you and me. But many are not open about their lifestyle because they lack support and they fear discrimination and rejection, which she aptly captures in the ‘Paper Bag’ installment:
“The journey was very touching because everyone has a different story. What was common in all of these stories was ignorance and also when acceptance came how life was much easier for them Yeah. Different parts of society. They are social workers. They are business men. Doctors. Students. I went to Orange Walk. Some people I met were from Cayo and some are from the city. It starts with the My Story series which is people who have paper bags which is people who have paper bags. The reason why identity was an issue throughout this process is because it is a very touchy subject and discrimination is real and if you know what’s like, you know you don’t want it and I decide to put paper bags over the head and with the stories given to me, I wrote them on the paper bag, capturing the image of the paper bag. I just want people to see that it isn’t easy at all. It is the hardest thing to think of or go through and then as you go on it says, “My lifestyle isn’t hurting anyone, but ignorance is.’ And that is what an LGBT person faces every day.”
Animator Shelby Castillo used his short film to bring some of the experiences to life. His video shows not just the difficulties, but also the difference that support and acceptance make in the life of a LGBT person:
Shelby Castillo, Animator
“Well, the film is a three part progress: a person coming out in society and being rejected and then treated as an outcast, but then finding family to love and support them.”
“What was your inspiration behind it? Is it a true story from someone you know or is just something that you think needs to be told?”
“I think it is something that needs to be told. I cannot relate to it, but I can make comparisons. Like being treated as an outcast is almost being treated as a monster and I used concepts of that and put it in my film.”
Although it’s an animated film, the stories and inspiration are real. The hope is that the exhibition will serve as an impetus for the LGBT community:
“I would want to spark more security, like even for heterosexuals and homosexuals. There are many people who are afraid of showing who they are. This is not an easy journey because of all the discrimination. For heterosexuals, if they would want to stop that narrow-minded mentality that they have.”
“Did their stories change your perspective of the way society views the LGBT community?”
“Yes. Personally, I don’t face a lot of discrimination but other people get it on a different level. For me that was heartbreaking and other stories they made me want to cry. And the families were so accepting seeing that my family struggles with it, so its mixed emotions.”
Andrea Polanco reporting for News Five.
The exhibition is sponsored by UNIBAM and Canada Fund Local for Initiatives.