Wednesday 3 August 2022

Goddesses, heroines lead spiritual world in Feminine Power, black women museum

A section of the exhibition 'Feminine Power' still showing at The British Museum.

PROJECTING the history of women's spiritual influence is  Feminine Power, an exhibition organised by The British Museum, U.K, which opened in May, and still showing till September 25, 2022.

The exhibition, which highlights female strength in global religions came two years after Museum of Black Women In History (MoBWIH) was announced in Nigeria.

Osun goddess, in Osogbo as well as the myth of 'Mammy Water' for Feminine Power are among the contents of female icons from across the world on display in the exhibition. Also highlighted in Feminine Power are Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, revealing 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. Among other icons on display is the terrifying Hindu goddess Kali, depicted in art carrying a severed head and bloodied sword, and  honoured as the Great Mother and liberator from fear and ignorance.

In 2021, the late Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi III announced that a museum on black women will be built in Oyo, under his grandpatronage. Coincidentally, one of the resource persons for the proposed-Museum of Black Women In History, Bonnie Greer, also contributed to the Feminine Power exhibition. Greer, who was a Deputy Chair, British Museum Board of Trustee is a collaborator in the Feminine Power, exhibition, alongside other resource persons like Mary Beard, Elizabeth Day, Rabia Siddique and Deborah Frances-White.

Hopefully, when the MoBWIH project comes into place, on a 50 hectares land in Oyo town, Southwest of Nigeria, iconic names in women leadership across the black world will be the subjects of research for the contents of the facility.  The land for the project was donated to Oranyan Heritage Foundation (OHF) by late Alaafin Adeyemi to the founder of OHF and Iya-laje of Oyo, Chief (Mrs) Comfort Titilola Orija-Adesoye, the museum was announced in 2021 during the 50th anniversary of the then Alaafin Adeyemi. 

When the proposed-museum was announced, Greer assured that "a museum dedicated to the achievements of Nigerian, African and all women, past and present, is an idea that I want to be a part of." She added that the scope, depth and reach, "based in Oyo, will be ground-breaking. We all know that when girls and women are thriving: the family is thriving; the nation is thriving; the entire world is thriving."

Before the death of Alaafin Adeyemi, Greer, had a zoom meeting with the monarch and assured him of her commitment in seeing that the Museum of Black Women In History was a reality. Lanre Olagoke, co-founder of project consultant, Lumin-Artica Nigeria Ltd, recalled that the meeting, which had him and Chief Orija-Adesoye in attendance deliberated on the step-by-step process of ensuring that the museum becomes a reality. 

"Alaafin Adeyemi of blessed memory was very delighted that Greer, an expert in museum management was involved in the proposed-Museum of Black Women In History and gave his assurance that apart from the 50 hectares of land he donated for OHF, more supports will be given to the project," Olagoke, an artist and founder of U.K-based Art-Alive explained some excerpts from the meeting. Olagoke said Lumin-Artica is welcoming research entries for interested historians to submit entries on past black women leaders to: 

Speaking on the Feminine Power, the British Museum stated that the exhibition considers the influence of female spiritual power and what femininity means today. Engagement with contemporary worshippers, faith communities as well as the resource persons like Greer and others made the exhibition a reality, the British Museum noted.

A curatorial note from the British Museum on the Feminine Power exhibition: "The exhibition seeks to explore the significant role that goddesses, demons, witches, spirits and saints have played – and continue to play – in shaping our understanding of the world.

"How do different traditions view femininity? How has female authority been perceived in ancient cultures? For insights, the exhibition looks to divine and demonic figures feared and revered for over 5,000 years," a curatorial note from The British Museum on the Feminine Power stated. "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."

Excerpts from The British Museum's curatorial statement: "Bringing together sculptures, sacred objects and artworks from the ancient world to today, and from six continents, the exhibition highlights the many faces of feminine power – ferocious, beautiful, creative or hell-bent – and its seismic influence throughout time."

"The many ways that female power has been – and is today – perceived in cultures and spiritual traditions around the world offers a rich and fascinating source of inspiration for considering our own views on femininity and female authority. Discover what these diverse beings mean to people today through commentaries from faith communities and our guest contributors, and share your own views and reflections on this important conversation, in our interactive exhibition space."

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