Being naked in public is the in-thing within the arts circles

DESIE HEITA
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Apparently the latest trend (or the modern way) is to experience an art exhibition naked or to enjoy a book club reading in the nude – all in a group. Yes, naked as in, being in your birthday suit, and that includes any form of underwear – from panties, bras and boxers to socks.

At some events the birthday suit code is enforced to an extent that no one is allowed to have any form of decorative fabric, leather or metal on their body, especially those that might obscure the birthday suit. So while ankle bracelets and stud earrings may be allowed at some events, others may prohibit dangling earrings or necklaces altogether.

While this trend appears to have mostly been something for the nudist clubs, many of whom are predominantly found in Europe, it has now caught up with Australia and Africa. Africa as in – wait for it – southern Africa, where South Africa is now hosting public nude reading events.

Nudists, as assistant professor and renowned Australian editor Kate Hennessy remarked, were until now confined to those who preferred being naked and hence form clubs where they can be naked together whenever and wherever they wish without preying eyes casting judgement on their desire to strip down.

So why would someone go to a book reading where those reading and enjoying the reading are naked? Well, according to Mamello Sejake, South African actor, musician and outspoken person on women issues, the reason is not only simple, but also goes beyond the obvious: ‘because we can.’

“We read naked because it is necessary. By owning our nakedness and giving people permission to really see us we prove how easy it is to desexualize the body,” Sejake wrote two weeks ago for the online platform OkayAfrica.com under the headline ‘The power of getting naked in public.’

“We read naked because it is vital that from time to time you get bare and vulnerable with yourself and then intimately engage with whatever gives you life. For us, literature gives us life and above all we do it to fuel a reading culture,” she commented. In Australia the strictly nude exhibitions, according to the news report that Hennessy filed for The Guardian (she disrobed to experience the event and file the story), were meant to show that the nudist lifestyle is much more than naked people idling about.

For the record the Australian exhibitions were for the works of American light artist James Turrell who, as any art buff would know, has produced some amazing pieces using light and space. His art works are often tricky to explain in words on paper and only when experienced would one appreciate them.

For Turrell’s new exhibitions in and around Europe, and Australia, visitors were required to leave their clothes at the door, before they could immerse themselves into the art on display.

To quote Sojake “it’s an indescribably powerful thing to find peace with being naked as it is vital that from time to time you get bare and vulnerable with yourself while intimately engaging with whatever propels the wind under your wings.” So whether it is art, reading or whatever leisure ‘propels the winds under your wings’, why not try it naked. Apparently being naked is when we, humans, are happiest.

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