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‘Woman, woman, woman’

Statues of women at the women’s museum in Bonn, Germany


Bonn is a culturally diverse city and one that appreciates the arts. I happened to visit the women’s museum in Bonn and was pleasantly surprised to see the wonderful installations on display there. I visited an exhibition titled, “Status of women in religion.” The exhibition displays the work of more than 50 artists from around the world. Wendy Hacz and Ellen Sinzig are two artists whose works are displayed in the exhibition and they were kind enough to walk us through and explain what the different art pieces and installations meant.

The ground floor of the women’s museum has historical statues of women from Bonn and nearby regions. These sculptures date from the 1st to 3rd century and depict women as goddesses. During that time, women in Bonn were praised for their knowledge of herbs, medicines and plants and were particularly respected because they could give birth to children. The second floor of the museum has posters about Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Ulrike Rosenbach’s video performance

“Woman, woman, woman”

The first display of art is a video performance of Ulrike Rosenbach, a well known German artist. In her video performance, which she did in 1977, she repeats the word, “woman” when she breathes out for the entire duration of one hour. According to Wendy, “She was one of the first well-known German video artists.  She  says the word “woman” again and again, but only when she breathes out so that every one she is not saying, man, man, man. “

Art piece by Ellen Sinzig, at the wome’s museum in Bonn, Germany.

 Is God male or female

The next display of art is by Ellen Sinzig. Ellen says that as an artist, she wonders whether God is male or female. She has taken a photograph of a flag from a chapel in northern Italy. In the photograph, Christ is crucified but he looks very feminine.  According to Ellen,“The steps leading to the cross are made of glass which shows that only through transparency you can come to the real truth.”

Parastou Foruhar’s “120mm stone”

120 mm stones

Another moving art piece is by Iranian artist Parastou Foruhar. Her art piece is very fragile and it is called “120 mm Stone.” Wendy Hacks explains, “ This is such a sad topic. It represents women who get stoned in the Arab countries. The stones they throw at these women are only 120 millimeters big so her death is prolonged and painful. They don’t hit with a bigger stone as that will make the woman die quickly.” The artist has made an installation of several small fragile boxes. In between the boxes, one can see photographs of stones, a woman’s face and bits of gravel.

The burqa debate

The hijab debate is prevalent in this part of the world too. Firouzeh, one of the artists, has depicted the burqa in a different way. In her installation, there is a mirror and there is a burqa. The artist wants to let people wear that and see themselves in the burqa. She believes that even if you wear a burqa, you still remain the same person and you think the same way. She has also shown beautiful and stylish women in burqa in her art piece.

Wendy with her “Sarasvati”


Finally, Wendy shows me her installation which is inspired by the Hindu Goddess, “Sarasvati.” In her art piece, Sarasvati sits on the lotus. She is the goddess of wisdom, music, art, and knowledge. There is also a photograph of the pilgrims in her installation. ” I experienced that religion is a strong issue in India and that’s why I captured this photograph of the pilgrims,” she says. On the left and right side of Sarasvati Wendy has placed piles of catalogues from the women’s museum. She believes that there is a lot of wisdom written in this catalogue and that’s why she has used them. The installation also shows pictures of women inside glass bottles. “The women in India are shut in, they are not free like here. They either have a brother or their parents taking care of them.” She adds.

Author: Beenish Javed

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

Beenish Javed is a reporter working for ARY News, Islamabad. She has been awarded a two-month long fellowship by the Friedrich Ebert foundation (FES) in Germany and is currently in DW, Bonn. You can follow Beenish on Twitter @Beenishjaved.


29.08.2013 | 13:19