La Jaxx: the Colombian Street Artist who Advocates for Women Through Art

lajaxx-promoWomen’s Empowerment Through Public Art

It’s one thing to scroll the newsfeed of our various social media platforms day in and day out, where we’re constantly bombarded with all varieties of information, from election issues to the merits of overnight oats.

But it’s an entirely different experience to walk down our city streets and literally see signs that speak directly to us, as women.

Thanks to the creativity, sass and whimsy of Jacqueline Brandwayn, known on the streets as La Jaxx, our urban landscape is coming alive with messages of empowerment for women everywhere.

As reports, the “Mandamientos” series started with phrases from Vicky Form, a Mexico-based lingerie brand. The company ran a contest asking fans to submit phrases, which resulted in ten different commandments. La Jaxx turned these into pieces that she pasted on the streets, crediting the brand online.

With feedback from her fans, La Jaxx then created 20 more commandments. The series features phrases like, “la relación más importante que tengo es la que tengo conmigo misma” (“the most important relationship I have is the one I have with myself”). English phrases like “the only who can define my self-worth is me” are also included, and some can be found in U.S. cities like New York.

We sat down with La Jaxx for a Q &A:

1) Can you talk about how the notion of “machismo” inspires your work? 

 “Machismo” plays a vital role in my work because I’ve always been surrounded by it, it’s unavoidable. Being a woman from a Latin country, growing up very aware of the differences between men and women imposed by society has always made me feel the need to celebrate my femininity out loud and share this celebration with other women.  This is why I choose the streets to post my work. In the street I can talk to everyone, regardless of their social class, and hopefully create an awareness and empower other women.

2) What is the ultimate goal of your “mandamientos”?

 The “mandamientos de las mujeres” is a project that came about in 2013. I had my art studio in Casco Viejo, Panamá, a neighborhood that had been mostly destroyed in the 17th century and half of the residents living there where squatters from a very low social class, little, if any, education and exposed to a lot of street drugs. At the same time it is where most of Panama’s government is located, including the Presidential Palace. I had been bombarding the streets with feminine iconography for about seven years when I came across the “mandamientos”. It was an initiative by a company in Mexico and when I read them I felt the need to take them out to the streets of Casco Viejo with the hope that the girls from the “barrio” could read them and feel empowered by them the way I had felt empowered when I first read them, it felt almost like a duty.
To my surprise the mandamientos became huge in the streets of Panamá and for the next year people would talk to me about there experience with them and about other issues that should be addressed. From all that interaction came the second set of mandamientos, this time created by men and women from Panama. They took a life of their own. Women from all over Latin America where writing to me in Facebook asking if they could post them in their own cities. I posted a link in facebook with those commandments because the more people read them, the more consciousness we could create.
My ultimate goal was to empower the women that where treated as second class citizens in my surroundings, and thankfully I think they did that in a greater scale.

3) In your view, how does public art help influence the cultural mindset? Why is this important for Latinas?

 Public art does not discriminate. It is there for everyone to see. It is out in the streets we all share, our public space. I would say this is important for everyone in a community, including Latinas.
When art is in an art gallery or in a Museum, there is a segregation of who can see it and who can’t. Specially in Latin America where we are stereotyped by our race, our color, our gender and our social class. Even if art galleries do not charge for the viewer to appreciate the work, not everyone dares to walk in.
The streets are free from all of this discrimination.

4) How does making art empower YOU?

 My art empowers me by giving me a voice, giving me a purpose. It gives me freedom, it connects me to the city, it connects me to people, it gives me presence, it makes me question everything, it keeps me curious, it surprises me.

5) What’s next for La Jaxx? 

 I’m currently working in two projects: “Spreading my legs” which is pasting up female legs around the globe adding some feminine vibes to a very male dominated street art world and “Las Literales” which explores fashion, femininity, objectification, brands, slang and cultures. Check out my instagram @lajaxx to see this two projects!