A beaded vulva? That's one way to open up discussion about sexual health

Artist Brit Ellis combines her training as a social worker and counsellor with her beadwork. She wants her beaded vulvas to open up discussions about health issues.
Beaded vulvas by artist Brit Ellis. (Brit Ellis/Instagram)
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Originally published February 11, 2018

Haudenosaunee artist Brit Ellis combines her training as a social worker and counsellor with her beadwork. She wants her beaded vulvas to open up discussions about health issues.

"There's nothing dirty or wrong with a vulva, or a penis for that matter," said Brit Ellis. "[By] not talking about it — we can talk about all of the different ways that that's contributed to different health issues, different concerns in our communities."

When Ellis first posted her beaded vulvas on her Instagram account blu_hummingbird she was a little nervous about the responses she might get. Since going public with her work, Ellis has been "pleasantly surprised" by the feedback. 
"They're starting conversations further than I really even imagined that they could,” said Ellis.

"I have consulted with aunties and with grandmas in my community and my family. And I've gotten a lot of support," said Ellis. "I'm really trying to do things in a good way."

"I wanted something that was accessible and kind of modern. And that's really what a lot of my bead work is about — marrying traditional teachings and ways of life with modern imagery and being able to present those ideas in a way that feels authentic to my generation," explained Ellis.

Ellis is encouraged by the positive responses she's receiving.

"One of the most powerful things for me, to reassure me that I'm on the right track with the work that I'm doing, is Indigenous women in Canada that have been reaching out to me that work in different universities and are doing decolonial work around sex and sex work and sex education. They've been very interested. And I've had a couple of orders go out to folks that have sat on panels and worn their vulvas or framed them and used them as a discussion tool in their classrooms," said Ellis.  

"So I really feel like that's the biggest indicator of success for me. They're starting conversations further than I really even imagined that they could."

Click the Listen button under the photo to hear Brit's interview with Rosanna Deerchild.