These visual artists want you to focus your attention on healthy relationships, self-care, and gender equality on the most romantic day of the year.
What do we talk about when we talk about love? Often, that is the wrong question to ask. It’s equally, if not more, important to ask the reverse—what do we not talk about when we talk about love?
For this Valentine’s Day, Oxfam has collaborated with visual artists from different backgrounds and countries to create Valentine’s Day cards that broaden the conversations on love. With their art, each artist touches on what healthy relationships look like, what it means to love others and themselves, how feminism can influence how we love, and more. It doesn’t matter if you’re single or boo’d up, these images will make you want to drop everything and reflect.
Check out their art, and the artists’ statements below:
“I wanted to be a part of the project because I always enjoy looking at established ideas through a feminist lens. What does a feminist Valentine’s card mean? To me, it essentially is to question the standard romantic notions talked about on this day. I drew about love being about freedom, of love being free from control. I was thinking of my relationship with my parents when I drew my card, but the same idea applies to any relationship. Healthy thriving love is one where everyone feels empowered to be true to themselves.” –Shehzil Malik
Shehzil Malik is a designer, illustrator, and feminist. Passionate about design for social change and pretty things.
“Historically, women have always been taught to put other’s in their lives first. Especially in relationships of any kind, a woman’s life typically revolves around the men in her life. I wanted to use Valentine’s day as an opportunity to talk about putting ourselves first and being independent.” –Kruttika Susarla
Kruttika Susarla is an illustrator, comic maker, and graphic designer based out of New Delhi, India. Her work explores themes of gender, sexuality, and observations on the status quo. She is interested in how visual imagery can make or break stereotypes to form perceptions of what is culturally “normal.”
“I participated because violence in relationships is a serious problem in all countries, and as an ‘artivist’ I am so glad to illustrate a healthy relationship that I wish all couples will live. I added Moroccan details to the drawing hoping that couples in my country will all have healthy relationship in the future.” –Zainab Fasiki
Zainab Fasiki a Moroccan comics artist, author, artivist and mechanical engineer. She is the founder of women power residencies a project that aims to motivate Moroccan girls to become artists. She’s also the founder of www.hshouma.com—a website and a comic book that aims to break taboos in Morocco.
“On a day when capitalist corporations exploit love for profit, it’s important that we disrupt their narrative and affirm a revolutionary love that is rooted in our collective liberation. Love is tearing down prisons, borders, and pipelines.” –Vienna Rye
Vienna Rye is a 27-year-old artist/organizer based in New York City. She uses art as a catalyst to confront and uproot settler colonialism, racism, capitalism, and patriarchy.
“I wanted to be a part of this project because I am passionate about creating art that reflects themes of self-love and care. Being exposed to artwork that validates our emotions and encourages us to grow from our life experiences is incredibly empowering. A floral theme clearly depicts care, tenderness and growing beautifully. The text for this illustration is: Care for your heart. Tears grow Gardens. ” –Heba Moubarak
Heba Moubarak is an entirely self-taught digital artist. Her work depicts visibly Muslim women and explores themes of self-love, growth, and connection to god. Heba is one of seven daughters and her inspiration stems from being surrounded by strong, compassionate and hard-working women, all of whom wear the veil. Growing up, it has been difficult for Heba, her siblings and friends to find art that they can connect and identify with on a spiritual, emotional and physical level. This inspired Heba to develop Hijabee art, a creative outlet that encourages visibly Muslim women to share in each other’s feelings and spirituality.
“Valentine’s Day and the messaging around it has always been so gender-normative and exclusive. When I heard the brief, I was excited about putting a spin on it and redefining Valentine’s Day and who gets to celebrate it. I chose my theme of “activism” because I think it’s a wonderful trait in people that deserve love and praise. It also was a great way to compliment someone in their work and their values instead of their looks.” –Divya Seshadri
Divya is a part-time illustrator who draws inspiration for her art on her experience as an Indian woman living as an immigrant in the US. She believes that all art is inherently political, and focuses on different intersections of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, et cetera.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this project because I grew up feeling terrible at Valentines. I felt a big pressure to find a man, find my other half (as if I weren’t whole already) and that reflected on cards. A time we should celebrate love turned to be a heteronormative pressure to find a way to make me whole when it would have been so much healthier to celebrate my own company and find love regardless of sexist conventions. So I chose to portray love between two women whose bodies I wasn’t used to seeing in valentine cards, and make sure this love seemed happy, light and easy. Love is not meant to be sacrifice, pain, and jealousy. It’s supposed to be like resting under a beautiful tree, with no worries, just caring.” –Carol Rossetti
Carol Rossetti does watercolors, comics, and feminism. Sometimes, all at once.
“When I was young, I spent a lot of time agonizing over the person I was ‘supposed to be.’ I became obsessed with embodying whatever stereotype of a girl I thought people would like. From playing baseball with the label, ‘Tomboy’ to prancing around in pink dresses and bows to be a ‘Girly Girl’, I spent so many years desperately jumping from persona to persona, trying to find one that would work. Eventually, I came to the realization that I had lost sight of who I actually was. Often it seems that our self-worth is measured by what others think of us, instead of what we think of ourselves. I’m still on my journey to finding inner-peace and practicing self-love, and every day I am amazed by the new things I learn about myself. It was that sentiment that inspired this piece, which I summed up simply with, ‘Life is too short to spend it not loving yourself.'” –Caitlin Blunnie
This article was originally published in Vice*