Agata Nowicka – illustrator, mother, feminist

Agata Nowicka – illustrator, mother, feminist
Agata Nowicka

We talk about the premiere of a female erotic graphic novel "The Being".

She has been living and working in New York for three years now. She has just come to Warsaw to celebrate the premiere of a female erotic graphic novel “The Being” which she co-created with Aleksandra Hirszfeld. The novel contains also works by Agata Bogacka, Dagmara Matuszak, Joanna Krótka, Ewa Juszczuk, Ada Buchholc and Katarzyna Borkowska.

My friend who moved with her family to the Hague wrote a few days ago: “I am on my way home”. I didn’t know which home she had in mind – this one in Warsaw or the one in the Netherlands. And where is your home?

I’ve moved about 30 times in my life. I have been thinking about where my home is and where I really come from for a very long time. And I still don’t have an answer. I don’t know where my home is. I don’t use this word. Home turned out to be something fictional. It is a place where there are people I love. When I come back to Warsaw for a month I stay in my friends’ flat. I feel safe and comfortable with them, I love them, they are like a family to me. And my home in the USA? It is a rented flat where I will live for a few years and then move on.

Are there any things that make your home there? What have you brought with you from Warsaw?

I have very few things. We managed to pack our belongings into two suitcases. One contained works by the Polish illustrators and graphic artists which I had been collecting for Mila and which used to hang in her children’s room. So I can say that home is where this art collection is.

Do you miss something from here?

Family, friends, a bike. That’s all. I am a patriot. I love Poland, Warsaw and I will always be interested in what is going on here. But I had a feeling that I got stuck a bit here. I wanted to feel that I still have the will. Even though when I lived in Warsaw I already had an American agent and was publishing there I dreamt of living in the most important for the illustrators city. I had been planning it for ten years but waited for a perfect moment. I also wanted my daughter to spend at least part of her childhood in the world which is more versatile than the one here. She is the only white kid in her class and she is really fond of her school.

Besides, misogyny in Poland is getting on my nerves. I have felt this way since my childhood. I remember when we were 8 years old and went with a bunch of friends to a priest and asked him how come that only boys can serve at mass. I was tormenting him for so long that he finally surrendered. It was in the 80s, in a small village in the Vistula Split. A few years later, women in Poland try to voice their opinion but still don’t have a say.

And they have it there?

I can tell you that patriarchy and misogyny don’t concern me in my private life. I can make a perfect bubble. And here I just couldn’t escape from permanent comments about my looks. How does it relate to my work? 

How did #metoo look like in Poland? A typical festival of misogyny! So many people told females to shut up! There is no denying that in some cases it is about personal vendetta but that’s only a small part of it. Tell me why do we feel pity for an abuser rather than a victim? Why taking part in the Women Strike is treated as something to be ashamed of? I don’t get it.

Komiks erotyczny ISTOTA
Joanna Krótka
Agata Nowicka
When women demand their rights, they are constantly called troublemakers, unstable, hysterical. "Feminist" is treated as an insult.
Dagmara Matuszczak

Now I understand that “The Being” hasn’t been created on the rise of the recent events and black protests. You have been thinking about it for some time.

We didn’t want with Ola Hirszfeld to make any revolution but only come back to the roots – to show that we have to talk to each other, be aware of the other person. Only then sex can be satisfying. We only wanted women to be seen and heard. In the United States, there are many female comedians who openly criticise patriarchy, point out inequalities, tell about their physicality and imperfections. Where are these kind of women here? Definitely not in the mainstream. You can still judge women by their looks, how old they are, if they have kids or a partner. There is no sexual education. And either you are not allowed to talk about it because it is a shame, or you cannot talk about it because there is no problem.

What have you created? How have you approached the topic?

My story is about masturbation. Girls still don’t talk about it. Those half our age they do. They exchange opinions on sex toys and they don’t think they substitute a contact with a man, but treat it as something ordinary and normal. This indoctrination which we were exposed to as kids had an influence on our lives. Many people in Poland still regard sex as something dirty and sinful. At school and church, we are told that we shouldn’t have sex before marriage.

And how would you explain the title of your novel?

As a being, an essence of feminity. For me, feminity is courage, openness, independence. It sounds even better in English – “The Being” which stands for a human being, existence. You simply exist. You don’t have to do anything special to be someone. The very thing that you exist already has a meaning.

Agata Bogacka
Ewa Juszczuk