Exploring Black Female Sexuality & Spirituality

By Tonya Bolton

A major issue still facing Black women today is sexuality. Throughout history, Black & Asian women are often seen in opposing sexual terms, either as completely non-sexual or perpetually sexually available. But we need to dismantle these stereotypical notions and reclaim women’s sexuality.

Tonya Bolton

As well as being an accomplished actress, author and playwright, I also run a not for profit organisation called ICU Transformational Arts Limited. As founder of ICU, I specialise in working with a wide variety of people, particularly vulnerable young people & women as well those who are affected by sexual exploitation & self harm.

Through my work, I address questions that many women have, but have been discouraged from asking due to tradition, socialisation, and cultural norms. This silence is doing a disservice to our communities, and ourselves. We need to change the dialogue. We need to keep it real and tell it like it is!

I wrote Holy & Horny to address my shocking discovery that an alarming number of Black and Asian & ethnic minority women are not reporting sexual and domestic violence or accessing sexual health services. Although most sexual & domestic abuse incidents in these communities go unreported, it is far more widespread than openly acknowledged.

Having overcome many personal challenges in my life such as experiencing bullying, homelessness, domestic violence and sexual abuse, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to stand up and speak my truth. In doing so I found a strength I never knew I had.

Holy & Horny is an extraordinary, thought-provoking, deeply moving & powerful one-woman show that celebrates women’s spirituality and sensuality. Although these sensitive subjects are handled with great care and consideration, I utilise various artforms such as comedy, mime, physical theatre, song and poetry as well as drama.

I chose to use the medium of a one woman show for Holy & Horny because for me it is the richest and most empowering form of theatre. My one person play enabled me to connect so deeply with diverse audiences in ways conventional theatre doesn’t come close to achieving.

This groundbreaking show crosses cultural boundaries and explores topical issues rarely discussed within society, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence and mental health. It explores how culture, race & gender impacts on our identities as women of colour and examines the links between abuse and the misuse of power.

It also highlights that women shouldn’t ignore their sexuality or sexual health regardless of their cultural or religious background. These subjects are rarely discussed within our communities and as a result many Black women often suffer in silence.

According to statistics violence against women and girls is a worldwide pandemic – approximately one out of every three women worldwide will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. And one in four girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

From the extensive audience feedback we received following the regional tour, we know that as a result of watching the play, numerous women in the audiences reported their own rapes to police, received counselling, accessed support services and began to recover from the trauma of sexual and domestic abuse.

Writing & performing Holy & Horny is without a doubt one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever encountered. It has already had phenomenal success in the UK including breaking box office records and is literally changing lives. Not only did I discover my voice for the first time, but speaking my truth encouraged others to do the same. It was the greatest gift I could have given myself and my community.

Ultimately Holy & Horny is a play that transcends race, culture or gender and speaks to the human condition inherent in us all.

Supported by Arts Council Funding, Women’s aid, Rape crisis centres and The Brook, Tonya is now embarking on an 11 venue tour across the UK and is bringing Holy & Horny to The Z-Arts theatre on 10th October at 7.30pm in partnership with Sustained Theatre Up North. For further information visit www.holyandhorny.com  
Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYvX2X3FazM&feature=youtu.be

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About Black Feminists Manchester

This is a group for women who are ‘black’ in the political sense. I.e: women who self- identify, originate or have ancestry from global majority populations (i.e. Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America) multi heritage and indigenous backgrounds.
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