Sex trafficking victim shares their story in new Sheffield art exhibition

A sex trafficking victim in Sheffield has used their harrowing experiences during yesterday’s opening of ‘My Self, My Mind: Escaping sexual slavery through art’ exhibition.

Xumina, who escaped to Sheffield only several months ago, presented their art in FoodHall, a community organisation in the city centre. The preparation for the exhibition started because Xumina needed a place to store their artwork while living in a series of safe houses.

The materials used ranged from everything between computer stands and bike lights to conveyor belts, christmas tree decorations and synthetic fur to construct sculptures and paintings.

Isaac Tendler from the area close to Hunter’s Bar, 23, director of the FoodHall, said: “The whole event is just amazing. Obviously because of the artist’s experience,  the story and what led to the creation is why we decided to exhibit it, but it’s so great and so exciting.  We did everything ourselves. We built the stands, painted, made the lights and music ourselves. It’s been such a great effort from the whole community, and just sharing it with all the people that are coming in feels even better.”

The artwork reflected the person’s experience of being exploited and enslaved to work in houses and streets, and represented the oppressive conditions of sex and gender.

Melina Theodorou from Kelham Island, 21, an intern at Expose Magazine and graduate of Sheffield University commented: “I feel very happy for FoodHall as an organisation and the artist themself. I’ve never encountered anything similar. Especially living in the age right now with MeToo movement, it really needs attention and needs to be put out there.

“Based on how many people came today, there is hope. The fact that we are not afraid to address the bad things that have happened and give the people who experienced it a platform for expression can definitely bring change.”

Each sculpture presented a stage of Xumina’s journey. Descriptions of figures highlighted the emotional experience of a life of terror, ignorance and inability to communicate, but the explanations for paintings illustrated how they could connect with anyone who has been abused and traded.

Written by Ekaterina Vyurkova

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