Images: Works in progress, by Alex Hunt
We Are Goddesses
Commissioned by Hull Museums
Produced by ARCADE
FRIDAY 18 - SATURDAY 19 MARCH*
HULL AND EAST RIDING MUSEUM
We Are Goddesses was a project designed by ARCADE in partnership with Hull Museums to celebrate the women in their collection and the women who are missing.
10 days to create
5 new illustrations and poems created
12 artists/local creatives involved
20,000 audience members
4 creative audio descriptions
Creating The Work
Inspired by the image of Venus included in the Rudston Venus Mosaic we set out to explore the lives of goddesses, present and absent, within the museum’s collection with a group of young women from The Youth Parliament and Kingston Youth Centre. Brilliant Hull artist Alex Hunt took the ideas and words of these incredible women and used them to inspire this artwork.
What is a ‘goddess’? It feels like a contested term. Is it empowering or reductive? An example of a beautiful muse or a woman of authority? Should we celebrate them or challenge them?
When we explored as a group what goddesses made us feel words came in pairs. Empowered, powerless. Adored, reviled. Pride, shame. Confident, inadequate. We wanted to celebrate them as an example of female power and reject them as a model of femininity we can never live up to. We wanted to touch them. We desired them. We wanted to be them.
Together we decided to create our own goddesses inspired by the everyday women we know in our own lives, and the Hull women whose lives we can glimpse in Hull Museums collection.
What makes a goddess? Our manifesto.
We want our goddesses to be; mischievous, disruptive, and playful; not graceful, not perfect, not only traditionally beautiful; activists, forthright, rooted in their power.
They hold the fire of the sun and they empower the world. At least we want them too. Afterall, who knows what chaos goddesses might wreak if we unleash them from the male gaze. That’s what this project set out to discover.
Venus was written by Maureen Lennon, inspired by the Venus of the Rudston Mosaic. A Hull Goddess and Florence Eva Crackles was written by Sophie, inspired by her cousin, and the famous Hull botanist. A Goddess of Knowledge was written by Venia Issa, inspired by her mother.
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A Goddess of knowledge: Written about her mum, by Venia
A lion mane
She is fierce minded
A minority in a majority
Stands her ground
Is rooted in her morals
Nurturing but aggressive
Intimidating but begs for change
Never has her share taken
Sure of herself.
A goddess inspired by the life of Florence Eva Crackles, by Sophie
I am stolen
I am broken
I am freed
I am healed
I can grow towns from dirt
I can summon storms from the sea
I am fierce
I am everything I want to be
I am me.
A Hull Goddess: Written about her cousin, by Sophie
She doesn’t fit in with the crowd
She does it effortlessly
Not to impress anyone
Not to prove anything
Not to make a statement
She does it because that’s who she is
She’s comfortable and proud
Smart and strong
Kind and flirty
She’s loud and free
She’s everything that she’s ever been denied and more
She doesn’t do this for anyone
But there’s a little piece of her out there for everyone.
Venus By Maureen Lennon
Feet hold up thighs
Like tree trunks
Wide hips, soft belly
What is love but something to sink into?
The depths of which you have no understanding.
I am not flat and smooth
Hair wild and mischief eyes.
You try and hold me in your canvas
Cloak me in desire
But I am too slippery
The spit of sea foam
I will not be possessed.
Naked in my power.
I hold your life in my palm
And you cannot look away.
Soon you call us all
And you are right
Because if you strip us to our core
We are beautiful and terrible
We are multitudes
We are rising
Feel us move.
Florence Anne Boot by Venia
Dressed in books and literature.
I am a woman who battles all those around me to progress into change.
I am the catalyst that offers an alternate ending.
I battled against my fate to change the future of others.
What our audience thought about Goddesses today...
What makes a Goddess?
“A divine femininity” / “Representing all women” "Power to be who she wants to be" / "No fear" / "Have belief in herself" / "Empowering others" / “Strong" / “Independent” / “Warrior” / “Brave” / “Compassionate” / “Gorgeous” / “Beautiful” / “Role Model”
Who would you have made a goddess of?
"The environment – a goddess to help regenerate and heal the earth" / "Peace" / "Animals – she would have the power to talk to animals" / "Beauty – real, diverse beauty" / "Strength and perseverance" / "Kindness" / "Compassion" / "Caring" / "Love and support for people in need"
Do you know of any modern goddesses? Who?
“My grandma” / “My mum” / "Nan was a goddess – she give up her time for others" / "My sister was always my role model" / "My teacher" / "My friends" / "Coco Chanel - she designed trousers for women!"
Photos: Abbie Jennings
We Are Goddesses - Credits
Goddess design - Alex Hunt // Goddess illustration assistant - Molly Innes // Poems and inspiration - Young Women at Kingston Youth Centre; Sophie, Venia, Annalise and Connie // Interpretation, Audio Description & Venus - Maureen Lennon // Poem voice - Venia // Audio recording - Ysabelle Wombwell // Audio description voice - Ruby Thompson // Concept - ARCADE in collaboration with Steering Group // Commissioned by Hull Museums // Produced by ARCADE // With support from Freedom Festival // Celebrating Women And Femme Identifying People Steering Group - Ysabelle Wombwell, Rachael Abbey, Karen Okra, Frances Kelly, Lizi Perry, Lou Cole
With thanks to our partners and funders
These projects are made possible with the support of Hull Museums and Arts Council England