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Rosie Weaver: Navigium Isidis

riart Grrrls pull out all the stops

riart Grrrls’ contribution to Coastal Currents, green:purple, is a week of events at Stade Hall which starts on Monday and includes both a daytime exhibition and nightly events. The idea was born out of a conversation between co-curators Xaverine Bates and Clare Whistler, as Xaverine, also a HOT writer, explains.

We were wondering how a contemporary event could be staged, which addressed topical political and ecological concerns, whilst incorporating both art and performance, with historical reference to the incredible women who preceded us and gave us the rights many of us take for granted today, namely the Suffragettes.

We are fortunate enough to have a fascinating figure from local history to look to: Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, who while technically a suffragist rather than a Suffragette, was one of the founders of the women’s rights’ movement in Britain. She began her life in Whatlington, died in Robertsbridge and was connected to Hastings all through her life.

Bonnie MacAllister: Suffragette Remix

An English artist, educationalist and leading early nineteenth-century feminist and activist for women’s rights, she was raised unconventionally with a private income, so was placed in a remarkable position for a Victorian lady. While most women were raised to be subservient and expected only to marry, procreate and live in subordination to their husbands, Barbara was free to live her life pretty much as she pleased.

She eschewed the life of a housewife, instead becoming a painter and social activist, living a bohemian, artistic existence, identifying with the exploited and forgotten members of society. She fought to give women the vote and the chance to live their lives beyond the shackles of patriarchy.

It cannot be denied that the current state of global affairs is less than satisfactory. Politicians (generally male) spend their time justifying the use of weapons of mass destruction against ‘global terrorists’ and ‘axes of evil’, whilst allowing the people in their own countries to go hungry, become unemployed and lose their homes. The world’s ecology is at tipping point – David Attenborough recently stated that the human race will be unable to survive through to the next century due to overpopulation; and the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that humans are unequivocally the cause of climate change due to consumerist culture and irresponsible energy demands.

So we wanted to put on a week of events looking at these ecological and economic crises from a feminist standpoint. riart Grrrls was founded exactly a year ago, by myself, prompted by a profound sense of injustice at the inherent sexism and misogyny in our society and beyond.

Occupation of HCMC for IWD 2012

Occupation of HCMC for IWD 2012

I wanted to address these issues through the arts and since then the movement has taken off – we have successfully campaigned against proposals to set up a strip club in Claremont; co-curated Domestic Disturbance with the School Creative Centre in Rye for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2013, raising funds for Refuge; staged a flashmob in the town centre for One Billion Rising to raise awareness about violence against women; and put on five successful talks as part of our female author series, featuring local authors AK Benedict, Rachel Lever, Penny Pepper, Ann Kramer and VG Lee. We’re also planning Ladyfest 2014 for IWD 2014, showcasing local female talent in the art and music spheres.

While admittedly women do have the vote in the UK these days, as well as the freedom to live their lives as they choose, thanks to the work of the suffragists, Suffragettes and the women’s movement of the 1970s and 80s, there are still numerous barriers blocking the way for women to fully advance in society. Women tend to take on the lion’s share of the childcare, statistically earn less and are more likely to be taking anti-depressants than their male counterparts.

As for female artists, the East London Fawcett Society recently carried out an art audit looking at the representation of female artists in the contemporary art scene: out of 134 commercial galleries in London, which collectively represent 3,163 artists, just 31% of the represented artists were women, so we still have a long way to go. green:purple aims to go some way to rectifying that imbalance.

green:purple programme

Helena Wojtczak’s biography of Barbara Bodichon

East London Fawcett Society’s art audit

Posted 23:07 Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 In: Visual Arts

Also in: Visual Arts

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