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International Women’s Day in Swansea

Last night International Women’s Day celebrations were held at Cinema & Co on Castle Street, Swansea. The place was packed. I know it sounds a bit daft, but I didn’t expect so many women to be there. Or maybe, I expected more than six men to come along, (of those one was a was a performer, another was a film-maker, another was one of the caterers and another was my husband, Seamas).

The night was made up of a series of short films, a couple of musical performances, a mini TED-talk and quite a few “Cake Breaks” (yum).

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This year’s exhibiting artists were Aida Garton, Ally Jay Phillips, Alyson Williams, Amber Hiscott, Amelia Thomas (Unity), Amy Goldring, Angie Stevens, Ann Jordan, Ann Lucas, Carol Lawrence, Catrin Jones, Chris Bird-Jones, Claudia Mollzahn, Emma Cownie, Fran Williams, Hana Scoular, Kara Seaman, Kat Ridgeway, Kathryn Trussler, Kate Bell, Laura Niehorster, Leanne Vaughan Phillips, Louisa Helen Johnson, Lynne Bebb, Nazma Botanica, Natie M Davies, Patricia McKenna Jones, Rose Davies (Scribblah), Rosy Ind, Rhona Tooze, Sally Davies, Sally Price, Tina Wisby.

Those are female Welsh rugby players, by the way.

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Me and my painting “Former Cricketers”

For me, the stand out performance of the night was Rufus Mafusa,  with her hip-hop dancers, who has been described as “a hip-hop educator, performance art poet, rapper, lyricist, writer and all-round creative soul”. She looked like a 21st century Rosie the Riveter. See below. She was wearing a 1940s style play/boiler suit with a red bow in her hair. Her thumbing performance of “Daughters of Dylan” brought real energy to the evening.

 

You can hear more of her work here.

Friends, poetry, music, art, political talks, film, dancers, food, what more could you want?

Special shout out to Rose Davies (aka Blogger Rosie Scribblah) Rosie for organising this brilliant event and cooking so much wonderful cake.

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Me and fellow artist, Nazma Botanica- we match!

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International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements – from the political to the social – while calling for gender equality. Its roots can be traced to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours. The first time there was an a “Women’s Day” it was a year later, on February 28, 1909 in New York. March 8 was suggested by the 1910 International Woman’s Conference (attended by more than 100 women from 17 countries) to become an “International Woman’s Day.” In 1911, it was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19. In 1913, it was decided to transfer IWD to March 8, and it has been celebrated on that day ever since.

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Frauen Tag 1914

After women gained the vote in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. It was also celebrated by the communists in China from 1922, and after founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Mao Zedong declared that ‘women hold up half the sky’ and March 8 was made an official holiday and women were given a half-day off. One can help but wonder that if it had been a international Men’s Day they’d have been given a whole day off! IWD  was finally adopted by the United Nations in 1975.

The original aim – to achieve full gender equality for women the world – has still not been realised. A gender pay gap persists across the globe and women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics. Figures show that globally, women’s education, health and violence towards women is still worse than that of men.

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Former Cricketers

In Swansea there will be an exhibition of Swansea-based female artists’ work at Cinema & Co. It is meant to show case the work of female artists, myself included. My painting “Former Cricketers” (above) is included. It is from my “Hollowed Community” project which focused on theme of declining community and the lack of sustainability (that means families with children) in areas such as Brynmill in Swansea due to (pretty much) unchecked studentification. The exhibitions will run from March 8th to 20th. There is an opening event on Thursday March 8th 6 pm to 8.30 pm. There will be performances, paintings, films and some “extra surprises”.

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If you want to read more about the “Hollowed Community” project click here.

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Feminism in stitches.

Next week is International Women’s Day which has got me thinking. I am a feminist. That means I believe in equality for everyone. I don’t think that’s particularly controversial but for some reason the term seems to be shrouded in confusion and discombobulation (I have never used that word in a sentence before but its seemed to fit nicely with what I wanted to say).

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Jenny Eclair

Last week British comedian Jenny Eclair was invited onto BBC Radio 4’s Front Row to debate which piece of “female-generated” work would best mark 100 years since many women got the vote.

 

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Tracey’s Bed

She was batting for Tracey Emin’s installation, “My Bed”, while a bright young female writer and performer was championing the Nora Ephron film When Harry Met Sally.

Surprisingly, to both me and Jenny Eclair, more listeners voted on twitter for When Harry Met Sally than “My Bed”. It was a landslide, in fact. What had gone wrong? Had a load of male trolls or even Russian bots voted for  When Harry met Sally? Were young people just stupid?

But then I thought about it. Both pieces are about women (Nora Ephron and Meg Ryan in When Harry… and Tracey Emin) openly expressing the reality of their sex lives in a frank way.  For Tracey it was as a heavy-drinking, chain-smoking woman falling to pieces in her period-stained bed, for Meg it was about showing that man cannot tell when women are faking an orgasm (with all her clothes on in a deli), as well as exploring the question can men and women ever “just be friends?” Perhaps, more importantly it demonstrated that for modern women friendship and emotional equality, not just sex, is at the heart at the most rewarding relationships, in a Hollywood, fluffy way.

 

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Tracey’s Tent

I would say, however, that Jenny Eclair, missed a trick when she offered up Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” to Front Row audiences. She would have done better with Emin’s “tent” Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995. Her reinvention use of a traditionally female craft – quilt-making and what it nowadays termed “craftivism” – was particularly radical and exciting. This was a craft usually associated with old ladies,turned on its head and made positively offensive and downright controversial. She turned a craft into art.

Yet, women have always been able to turn this genteel craft to political purposes. In the early decades of the 19th century ordinary people were keen to show their support for Wilberforce’s  anti-slavery campaign. Thousands took part in a sugar boycott, bought and wore anti-slavery pins, plates and badges.

Some made their own embroidery pieces. Later the suffragists and suffragettes made their own banners, belts and slashes. This craft also helped give women some financial independence. My great-aunt, Janet, who never married but lived all her life with her mother in Cardiff, sold her designs to embroidery magazines.

Craftivisim still has resonance two decades later.  In last years’ Women’s March in the USA thousands of woman wore pink “pussy” hats. These pink hats weren’t mass produced in China – they were handcrafted by women through a grassroots effort. Over 80 patterns for pussy hats were published on social media.

And then again, maybe, Tracey’s embroidery and the history of women’s political action in the last 200 years or so just would not have won over the twitterarti because When Harry Met Sally is a lot funnier!

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