In 2018, The Cambridge women’s photography group, CamIris, chose to make a calendar to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United Kingdom.
As is usual for me, this idea developed from a first idea to another more in response to the work of other members of the group.
The first idea was
The lines of a poem “Sans filets” (Without Safety Net) I wrote in 2005 roughly translate as
It is empty space
But your heart
Can take that pace
The sculpture is by French sculptor Christine Lemaire who was in the process of trying to take off, depending entirely on her artistic work for her income and starting a new life on her own. One of her characteristic small women balancing in empty space spoke eloquently of that feeling combining fear and excitement when a new adventure starts. The name of the sculpture “Même pas peur !” (I’m not scared) recalling playground talk and daring was appropriate too.
Then I re-read Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and it struck me that folk tales call to courage through time. For as long as stories were told, they have given models of resilience and courage. They are more about courage, than the happy resolution we tend to summarize them with.
I chose the last story Pinkola Estés tells and analyses “The Handless Maiden” as it seemed to me that a woman who has no voice in the running of society is a woman who is maimed.
I started with a chubby,cheerful Handless Maiden, looking like the one who bravely says “yes” when her father says they have no choice but to cut her hands off.
It was not graphic enough to support the quote from Pinkola Estés I wanted to share on the picture, so I took another picture and used my own words. After comments from CamIris members, I went back to chop here, chop there, working to make it simpler.
To some it appeared violent; to me it appeared poster-like and quite Soviet, which I liked as I spent formative years (13 to 17) in the Soviet Union. I realised the first picture, far more child-oriented related to other formative years (0 to 5) spent in Poland.
When I was about to send the picture to my young friend who had modelled for me, the violence of the picture struck me, so I used other photos we had done and gave the Maiden her hand back.
The red can be the wound, it can be the theatre, it can be the red scarf of warning.
The tales of long ago pass on the reassurance that all will be well but they also warn that fulfillment will come at an inescapable cost.
Il faut grandir
Il faut marcher
Tu le sais
Sur le chemin
You must grow
You must walk
As you know
On the path
For an instant
For a moment
Sometimes a long while