Thursday, 19 May 2022

Launch Party Pics: Feminine Power at the British Museum


Probably the most exciting thing I've done in the past year is be part of the consultation team for the British Museum's latest exhibition: Feminine Power: the Divine to the Demonic. The best bit of all was attending the opening event earlier this week. It was invitation only, and I felt extremely honoured to be invited! Pictured at the top is the reception in the Great Hall, where people mingled, enjoyed wine and canapes as well as hearing inspiring speeches about the exhibition's themes. Pictured next to this is the first thing you see when you enter the gallery - enigmatic female forms modelled in ancient times.

Feminine Power takes a innovative cross-cultural look at the influence of female spiritual beings within global religions. It explores the significance of goddesses, demons, witches, spirits and saints in shaping how we view the world.

The invitation I was sent explained the way the exhibition explores female authority figures in cultures ancient and modern: 

"From wisdom, passion and desire, to war, justice and mercy, the diverse expression of female spiritual powers around the world prompts us to reflect on how we perceive femininity and gender identity today. Worship of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, reveals how her destructive capacity is venerated alongside her ability to create. The Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion, who transcends gender and is visualised in male form in Tibet and female in China and Japan, uncovers the importance of gender fluidity in some spiritual traditions. And the terrifying Hindu goddess Kali, depicted in art carrying a severed head and bloodied sword, is honoured as the Great Mother and liberator from fear and ignorance."

An important part of the British Museum's official research for Feminine Power was via engagement with contemporary worshippers and faith communities as well as insights from high-profile figures Leyla Hussein, Mary Beard, Elizabeth Day, Rabia Siddique and Deborah Frances-White. 

On the pagan community panel were members and associates of the Children of Artemis, including myself. The picture below shows the bit in the exhibition detailing who we are, and the photo to the left shows five of us outside the British Museum as we met up to go in together. Laura Daligan and myself were also asked to visit the museum to record our impressions of two of the paintings on show. Laura talked about Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses by John William Waterhouse, while I discussed Ithell Colquhoun's Dance of the Nine Maidens. You can see the image and listen to my words at www.britishmuseum.org/maidens and hear Laura's words at www.britishmuseum.org/circe 

The Citi exhibition Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic runs from 19 May to 25 September in The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery at the British Museum. Tickets are £15 for adults, free for children, and concessions and group rates available. You can find out more and book here: https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/feminine-power-divine-demonic

To coincide with the exhibition, an illustrated catalogue, Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic, written by Belinda Crerar has been published by the British Museum Press

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