Culture · Society

Art and Activism in Ireland: Leanne Woodfull on Repeal Chain

leannerepealcahincolourhashtag

When I think of the Repeal movement, a few images immediately spring to mind. I see the simple and stark caps-lock REPEAL lettering across Anna Cosgrave’s black jumpers. I see the eye-catching blue and red of Maser’s heart-shaped Repeal the 8th mural, which people have replicated on banners and t-shirts the world over. The latest in this wave of iconic protest art is Repeal Chain, founded by final year NCAD students Leanne Woodfull and Dearbhla Ní Fhaoilleacháin Ryan.

Repeal Chain is a social media awareness project which, since its inception in February, has reached several continents.  Borne from a collaborative project assignment, Repeal Chain spreads the message of the Repeal movement around the world using simple graphics. The imagery of chains symbolises Irish women’s struggle for reproductive freedoms, as well as the global nature of the campaign.

I spoke to co-founder and blogger Leanne Woodfull about the project, its influences, and the potential for art to affect political change in Ireland today.

What inspired the idea for Repeal Chain?

Caroline Gallegos’ viral Mean Girls-inspired anti-Trump poster inspired Repeal Chain initially. I loved how her one poster design ended up going viral online and made it onto the streets of America, from coast to coast.

Caroline Gallegos Trump Mean Girls
Source: https://twitter.com/CaGallegos92

I wanted to start a project offering graphics and information that would hopefully spread outside of Ireland, on and off the streets. Many people don’t realise the human rights struggle Irish women are going through, so reaching out to our sisters abroad and informing them means a lot to me.

Are you influenced by the success of previous projects, like the REPEAL jumpers and Maser’s street mural?

Definitely! Anna Cosgrave is a huge influence of ours. We actually met with her a few months ago to discuss both of our projects. She’s incredible. The Maser mural was definitely a turning point for the Repeal campaign, I think. It’ll go down in history, as will Anna’s REPEAL jumpers.

Source: http://www.shemazing.net
Source: http://www.shemazing.net

Do you think art projects have the capacity to effect real political change in Ireland today?

One-hundred per cent. People are aesthetically drawn to eye-catching and colourful ‘things’. Art plays a huge role is grabbing peoples’ attention via posters, infographics, articles, street art, and so on. Whether it’s our kitsch-style graphics or something as simple, yet bold, as Anna’s jumpers, art and graphic design play a huge role in effecting political change.

How do you measure Repeal Chain’s success?

We really wanted to reach people in every continent. That was our ultimate goal. We hoped to get a repost of our graphic or a print-out of it across the globe, to show Irish women that their struggle is heard and known worldwide.

Over the last 3 months, we have been delighted to receive photographs of our graphics used in protest in Glasgow and in solidarity in Guatemala. We’ve had messages of support using our graphics, reposted from Brazil, France, North America, Denmark, Canada, Thailand, Switzerland and more. It’s really humbling and reassuring.

landscape-1485277701-paris-haute-couture-17-038-copy-1
Source: http://www.harpersbazaararabia.com

I recently saw a tweet that said something along the lines of: ‘men only wear Repeal jumpers because they want girls to like them’. This reminds me of controversy about feminism becoming ‘too fashionable’, like that which surrounded Dior’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ t-shirts last year.

It’s a fact that some people are going to be cynical about these kinds of projects, and argue that they’re a fashion statement rather than genuinely politically motivated. What would you say to those people?

I can see truth and logic in their argument, definitely. There’s pros and cons but the pros outweigh the cons. Regardless of the likes of the REPEAL jumpers or feminism itself becoming ‘trendy’, they’re still making an incredibly important message (and word) known on the streets, which is vital. They attract questions and thus, have the ability to educate.

Regarding the Dior tee, I think it’s important to note that Maria Grazia Chiuri is Dior’s first female creative director in the house’s history. She’s an incredibly powerful woman.  I can see her thinking behind the t-shirts, and they have backbone, considering the white male-dominated position she’s attained.

Finally, what can people do to support Repeal Chain?

Spread the word around, whether it be online or off. We have posters you can download and stick up around your area. Likewise, we’ve various graphics we’ve created on our Instagram that people can repost.

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