Women in Art celebrates female artists

The art world in Belize has been dominated traditionally by men, but trends over the past few years are showing that is changing. Women have often preserved tradition and culture and the objects that they create are becoming today’s fine art. An exhibit that is opening at the Institute of Mexico is celebrating both the artworks of Belizean women. The curator of the Women in Art exhibit, Gilvano Swasey, says that this year the project is celebrating women as creators of the community.

Gilvano Swasey, Curator, Women in Art

“Women in Art has traditionally been shown in the sense of women creating what we call traditional art; maybe paintings, baskets and so forth. For the last couple years, we have celebrated women’s day then women’s month and finally we’re at a point where the Women in Art project is celebrating women, not just as a weaver or a stitcher, but as a mother in the sense where she creates, not just an object, but she creates a whole community. She shares her life, her beliefs, her religion, her joys, her pain and finally there is a space where we can put these expressions on.”

“Who they are is just the physical being, what they do is basically, like I had said previously, they basically scratch culture; they make it bleed; they make it cry and they have created this environment where they raise a child. Traditionally, in a society, as a child a young girl grows up with the mother and learns all the skills. The father is out trying to catch a bird or something and when he comes back home, then he pretends he is the breadwinner while the woman is at home feeding these children, telling them stories, passing on tradition and so forth. And it’s only when they get to puberty that the young man runs around with his father like most men do. So these women, what they have done is captured the men, captured the children, and basically create this home where we learn to read, we learn to write, we learn to cook, we’re taught all the basic things that will make us survive and that is what Women in Art is doing. We have film makers, we have photographers, we have quilters, we have jippy jappy baskets, we have painters, we have installation sculpting; all the things that men have said they have done but basically, what men has done is capitalize. We have decided we’re going to sell this stuff while the women has just been creating it secretly and in a sense to satisfy themselves and not to satisfy the world.”

“These are objects that we have all lived with, a scrubbing board, a basket to put your tortilla in, a photo of your grandmother. These are all things that were always there but we had never celebrated it as something creative, we were just waiting for the man to tell us that it was important.”

Jose Sanchez
“What's you final analysis of the art?”

Gilvano Swasey
“It is—I’ve always looked at life in the sense of there's only one time where there's now like I’m going to die. But what this does for me, it gives me hope. Hope in the sense that many of the artists here are young—they are some young women—but they’re not just young physically, they're young in their minds, meaning there's more to come from them and all they had wanted was the space to showcase their work. So this exhibition and this show will celebrate all of that and give us hope. On the opening night, we’ll have spoken word, there will be performances beyond the physical things on the wall and so we are going to create a whole feeling.”

The exhibit is a collaborative effort between the National Institute of Culture and History and the Embassy of Mexico. The public is invited to the opening Wednesday night at seven pm. It will run until April second.

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