Writing by Hannah Forsdike // photographs by Cim Ek
Thirty-three year old Swedish photographer, Cim, is shining a light on female empowerment, body positivity, and sexual liberation through her many colourful, beautiful and impactful photography projects. Her recent project, Glitter Yonis, invites women to connect to their body, their sexuality, and their pleasure.
Cim first discovered photography as a child, she enjoyed playing with her families digital camera. She bought her own DSLR with the money saved from her first summer job, and started her business as a commercial photographer a few years later. Because photography had been such a huge part of her self expression and her art, she quickly realised she’d need to find a new, creative path beyond commercial work. “When I was shooting for companies and brands I almost lost my passion for photography… I was always taking photos for someone else, it was never fully with my own vision and creation. I went down a new path with my creativity, and began to find what I truly felt passionate about and wanted to create.”
Cim expressed that art is closely entangled with her life, and that she uses her art to process and expand on her thoughts, as well as a form of self expression. “Art is therapy for me” Cim told Ramona Magazine, “It helps me move through whatever is happening in my life… Ten years ago I was shooting dark photos with lonely people as the subjects – an expression of the depression I was in at that time. Now my photos have a lot of color, glitter and are centered around topics of womanhood, nudity, sexual liberation and empowerment.”
Glitter Yonis is Cim’s most recent and most colourful art project, she invites women to celebrate and praise their vulva. There is a whole lot more to this project than sparkly photos, Cim wanted to celebrate how beautiful the female sex is; showing how we are all the same and yet all so unqiue. She also wanted to dress each vulva up in a glittery dress, to create a special experience for each subject.
The inspiration for the project first came to her in a nightclub bathroom, there was a long line for the women’s bathroom, so she decided to sneak into the mens. “When I came out of the stall there were a few men peeing at the urinal, and I saw a few penises! I excused myself and rushed out. This experience started a chain of thoughts in my head. I would never see any genitals in the female bathroom obviously, yet for men that is the case every time. It hit me how often men see, connect, touch and feel their penis on a regular basis. Every time they go to the bathroom and basically every time they are naked they see their sex! For us women, it is very different; we don’t see or touch our own yoni when we go to pee. We have to take an extra step to actually see her; by bending over or grabbing a mirror. How often do we do this? And when we are naked with other women, in public showers or in saunas for example, we don’t really see the vulva and the labia. We only see the front of the yoni. Somehow, growing up as a women, we have no real life experiences of seeing the versatility of our own sex. For hetrosexual women, the only time we do see other women’s yonis is in porn – and we all know that’s not a good representation of the diversity of the vulva.”
Cim wanted to create a space for our gentiles to be seen in a context other than medical or sexual. “It feels to me like such a paradox that the yoni is so hidden in our culture, yet it is arguably the most amazing body part there is! I mean, it holds the potential for a crazy amount of pleasure and the creation of new life!”
Glitter Yonis is an art project, and also an experience for it’s subjects. Participants attend a two to three hour workshop or ‘sister circle’ as Cim describes it, around the topic of the the female sex. “We come together in a safe space and share our yoni sotries, touching on things like; first pleasure, mastrubation, first period, sexual violations, sex debutes, longings, pains etc. Topics that for many of us still feel a bit shameful or taboo in our everyday lives. The women also do a ‘yoni-gaze’ where they basically get to show and see each other’s yonis. I am always amazed by how rare this experience is.”
The second part of the workshop is the “Glitter workshop”, where the vulva are decorated and honored using body safe, eco friendly glitter. Cim then photographers the decorated vulvas for her art project, giving the participants a copy of their photo to take home with them. “After taking photos of over 100 yonis, I am amazed by the variation of the yoni, there really are not two yonis that look the same! They are completely unique and therefore its own piece of art!”
We asked Cim why she uses the word “yonis” for the project, rather than the more scientific “vulva”. She pointed out that many people grow up not really having a word or a name for their genitals, with many women referring to their sex as “down there”. “There are obviously many words for our genitals, but not one of them ever felt right to me. Either they seemed too childish, or too clinical and medical, and others have a strong negative connotation attached to them. When I heard the word Yoni for the first time I remembered I really liked the round, soft sound of it. Yoni is sanskrit and means sacred gateway, sacred flower. I thought that was really beautiful! It is also one of few words that refers to the whole female reproductive system; the vulva, the womb and the ovaries.” I have always leant towards referring to the individual parts of the female reproductive system by their individual names, separating it into parts (vulva, vagina, uterus etc.). But I really loved Cim’s philosophy here of having a word that describes the entire system, especially one with such positive connotations. Too often female genitals are shrouded in shame and taboo, I love her holistic approach to female empowerment, right down to her language.
Cim speaks a lot about the impacts of women being disconnected from their genitals on a personal level, and her journey in learning how to listen to her yoni.
“I didn’t even know that I was disconnected, it was just my normal state of being. I didn’t hear when my yoni tried to communicate with me, which meant I often crossed her boundaries without fully knowing. For example during sex, I would let my mind decide rather than my yoni. Deciding rather than feeling what was right for my body and yoni would lead to me missing important signals that indicated when I was ready for penetration or what excited me… Being disconnected from my yoni also meant that she was numb inside. I didn’t experience much pleasure from penetration but needed a lot of clitorial stimulation to orgasm. When I started my path of sexual healing and awakening I learned that the numbness was a result of long term tension in my yonis muscles. Working with yoni mapping, yoni massage, tantra, trauma healing and emotional release etc, my yoni slowly became more sensitive and alive again.”
The long term goal for Glitter Yonis is to encourage women to have a name, connection, and relationship with their Yoni. “I hope that mothers and daughters have beautiful conversations about menstruation and anatomi. I want girlfriends and sisters around the world to be able to share their experiences related to their yonis, pain and pleasure. And I hope for lovers and partners to meet in safety that supports the yoni to fully open up and together explore the wide range of female pleasure.”
Cim is working to create a webshop for the Glitter Yonis project were you can buy single prints or a poster with over 100 glittered vulva’s all together! She is also working towards working one on one with women, to create more unique and personalised experiences with her therapeutic and healing art workshops. She has also started a YouTube channel to further explore way to share her message, her artwork, and women’s stories.
I would encourage anyone with a vulva to get our Cim Ek’s website, for her Glitter Yonis project or any of her other beautiful and empowering art projects, such as her Every Body Love project. This photography series seeks to capture women’s bodies and expand and stretch the beauty standards we are all familiar with. Check out the links to Cim Ek’s websites and socials below: