Our ancestors considered it great offense to reject the counsels of their
particularly of the Female Governesses. They were esteemed the mistresses
of the soil."
--"Good Peter" of the Haudenausaunee to colonial governor Clinton
of New York
feast of creative and indominable women, famous and anonymous, ancient and
modern. Leaders, founders, clan mothers, culture-makers, healers, holy women;
builders, farmers, market women, musicians, doctors, witches, mystics, writers,
educators, athletes, pirates, warriors, mavericks, rebels, activists, and
liberators. This collection of rare images, seen by hundreds of audiences, surveys female spheres of power as well as
women who defied the strictures
of patriarchy, class, empire, and racial caste.
A dramatic overview of women's history, now available on DVD.
societies are not patriarchy in reverse, but an entirely different paradigm.
Cultures that are both matrilineal and matrilocal correlate
with indicators of female liberty and power: decision-making authority,
political and spiritual leadership, economic leverage, inheritance and land
rights. Egalitarian gender politics are encoded in the social fabric: matrilineages
have no "fallen women," no "illegitimate" children,
and matrilocal husbands, surrounded by their wives' kin, are unlikely to
commit marital abuse. Certain indigenous cultures in Niger, Yunnan, Sumatra,
Vietnam, Ontario, Surinam, Micronesia uphold these egalitarian principles.
This international visual presentation probes the implications
hold for a future of gender equality. What would the world be like
if female elders or women's councils had the
final say on war?
*Matrix defines egalitarian matrilineal / matrilocal societies and also implies value placed on life-support networks.
I count the grains of sand on the beach and measure the sea.
I understand the speech of the mute and hear the voiceless.
---Delphi Oracle, in Herodotus I, 47
Holy women, ritual
leaders and temple mothers: an illuminating voyage through ancient art and
modern photos of priestesses performing sacraments. How women create
sacred space: historic sanctuaries and living traditions of female spiritual
leadership in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas,
Australia and the Pacific Islands.
turban-wearing women of Asian Kybele...with drums and bullroarers and booming
of bronze cymbals in their two hands make great sound...celebrating her who
is the wise musician of the gods and healer as well."
Four thousand years of
women drummers: a stunning array of female musicians, shamans and celebrants
from Mali, India, Siberia, Chile, Asia Minor, South Africa, Kansas, Eritrea,
Spain, Canada, Yemen, Peru, Uzbekistan, Korea, Iran, New York, Algeria, Timor,
and more .
mysteries: sacraments of birth
In the house with the tortoise
chair/ She will give birth to the pearl/ To the beautiful feather...
There she sits on the tortoise/ Swelling to give us birth/ On your way,
on your way/
Child be on your way to me here/ You whom I made new... --Aztec poem
of conception, birth and child-blessing, in art from every corner of the
world. Women's ritual culture around the passage into life (and possible
death) through the body and blood of mothers. Birth huts and labyrinths,
spirals and breastpots.
coming of age ceremonies: seclusion, vision-seeking, body-painting, instruction
by elders, and the dance of new women before the entire community, in sacred
regalia, with cowrie strands, masks, beaded veils, layers of cloth, new belts
or the long skirts of adult women. The intrusion into these ceremonies, in some places, of
acts which symbolically or physically tame the female body must not be allowed
to obscure the beauty and value of the core traditions over which they have
been imposed, and the importance of rites of passage for youth. These rites
are now being reclaimed -- in some places they were never lost, in many they
were crushed, and in others, where they were turned to enforcing masculine
dominance, many women are choosing to change harmful practices while keeping
the sacred core of the most ancient traditions.
does not know my name and my house, you can
be sure they are from somewhere else!"
Celestina, 15th century play about a Spanish alcahueta
Clan leaders. Wisewomen.
Oral historians. Healers. Rebels. Drummers. Dancers. Sibyls. Witches...
The social vulnerabilities of old women in patriarchal societies. Stereotypes
and witch hunts. Survivors. Old women as resisters, radicals, non-conformists,
activists, and leaders. Divinity as Old Woman: Omosi-mama (Manchu), Nana Buruku
(Fon), Chhala Pachcho (Oraon), Cailleach Bhéara (Irish), Xi Wang Mu
(China), Befana la Strega, la Vecchia (Sicily).