Sarah Mayhew Craddock looks at a powerful protest to aid women

Some things in life can be so difficult to stomach that it’s easier to sweep the subject under the carpet and pretend it doesn’t exist rather than tackle it head-on and try to instigate change.

Those subjected to practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) are so often silenced by the physical and psychological pain of the experience or the fear of speaking out against the prospect of it that the lump under the carpet only grows bigger, tripping up even greater numbers.

It takes brave and bold individuals with a great deal of sensitivity and understanding to make a stand and spread awareness and sometimes art can prove to be an appropriate vehicle for such expression.

CUT: Artists Against FGM is an evocative exhibition of hard-hitting, mixed-media two-dimensional works that opened yesterday at The North Wall Arts Centre in Summertown.

Works in the exhibition are all inspired by the subject of FGM and are by secondary school students from across Oxford, and professional artist Jeroo Roy. An art competition was held in conjunction with this exhibition, and Emily Hicks the overall winner.

The exhibition forms part of a project coordinated by Oxford Against Cutting, a charity that has been set up to tackle female genital mutilation of girls and women living in Oxfordshire.

In addition to the exhibition the project includes talks and short pieces of drama to highlight both the difficulties and benefits of speaking up about FGM.

Speakers include Oxford Against Cutting’s community outreach lead Fatou Ceesay, herself an FGM survivor, and Dr Brenda Kelly, the clinical lead on FGM in Oxford and founder of the Rose Clinic based at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Jeroo Roy is a London-based artist originally from Mumbai whose paintings shine a spotlight on violence against women and children. Mainly working in acrylic on paper, for CUT: Artists Against FGM Roo has produced a tapestry, a carpet that cannot conceal secrets beneath it or be stepped over, for it is to be lifted up from the floor and displayed on the wall.

Fatou Ceesay said: “I think the artworks contain and send powerful messages about FGM. Things like ‘breaking the taboo’ and ‘speak up’ are key features in the campaign against FGM. It is only by speaking that we can break the silence culture.”

Kate Agha, executive director of Oxford Against Cutting, said: “The project has been organised to help raise awareness about FGM and give people the confidence to talk about it and recognise it as abuse.”

Dr Kelly said: “In Oxfordshire, there are women and girls living with the consequences of FGM or who may be at risk of FGM. “I know from my experience in the Oxford Rose Clinic that FGM is a difficult subject for women to talk about.”

Any women who have been a victim of female circumcision can contact the Rose Clinic at or 01865 222969. All patients are treated strictly confidentially.