End FGM – life saving design


By Ruth Greenall.

Creating a logo is a challenging process for artists and designers, demanding that they shrink an entire identity into an eye catching and memorable symbol. But how much greater is the challenge when the subject this symbol represents is so disturbing that people want to look the other way?

When Maggie O’Kane was looking for an artist to design a logo for the Guardian campaign she co-ordinates, she looked to Cuban artist and activist Erik Ravelo, the Creative Director of Fabrika.

The Guardian is backing a campaign to put education at the heart of tackling Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK. FGM is a culturally embedded practice estimated by the World Health Organisation to affect up to 140 million women and girls worldwide.

The practice is considered a rite of passage marking a girls transition to womanhood. It is motivated by beliefs about sexual behaviours and chastity. The effect of FGM on women and girls is lifelong physical and mental health problems including deadly complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

In December 2012 the UN General Assembly unanimously voted to work for the elimination of FGM throughout the world. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “All ‘traditions’ that demean, dehumanise and injure are human rights violations that must be opposed until they are ended.”

The UK campaign, fronted by 17-year-old Bristol school girl Fahma Mohamed, was successful in petitioning Education Secretary Michael Gove to write to all head teachers urging them to support and protect young girls in the UK from FGM, which is a good start.

Ravelo has previously produced some controversial work. His United Colours of Benetton Unhate campaign famously featured images of world leaders kissing and in September 2013 his series of human sculptural stills ‘Los Intocables’ (The Untouchables), depicting the infringement of the rights of children, was removed from Facebook.

O’Kane saw from these powerful images that Ravelo could deliver activism art to grab the attention of young people of the digital age. She hoped that Ravelo would create a single image which would convey the horror of FGM without turning people’s heads away.

Ravelo has met this challenge with clarity, choosing the crisp image of a fractured razor blade to symbolise the hopes and aims of the campaign. He describes the broken blade, an implement which causes untold misery for thousands of women worldwide, as a ‘disabled weapon’ and whilst the image is unsettling, it is not offensive, and does not demean the women and girls whose cause it represents.

Maggie O’Kane and campaign figurehead Fahma Mohamed are role models with the courage, skills and passion to stop FGM in the UK. And by using the logo, the hoody could play its part in schools and on the street. If you get the opportunity to wear Ravelo’s logo, don’t hesitate; it’s literally a life changing piece of design.

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