Feminine power: the divine to the demonic ★★★★ The British Museum | May 19 - Sep 25, 2022


This relatively small exhibition is trying to cover a huge subject, and it does quite an amazing job. Every faith tradition in the world has female figures who are venerated and to try to winnow out their importance and connections is no small task. In this instance, the challenge has been approached by organising the galleries around five pervasive themes: Forces of Nature, Passion and Desire, Magic and Malice, Justice and Defence and Compassion and Salvation. Each section has a special guest contributor who provides commentary on that area. (It's important to note that access to these presentations is provided by reading a QR code. So, come equipped with a smart device such as a phone or tablet with internet access or Wi-Fi, and some earbuds.) The exhibition features over 80 objects, both selected from the Museum's own collection and complemented by various loans. It is a fascinating mixture of exquisite historical pieces with some judicious contemporary selections. These have been cleverly brought together to make the viewer aware of the extent and variety of the perceptions of the power of the feminine in a multitude of cultures. Kali, Isis, Ishtar, Guanyin, Mami Wata, Maryam, Eve, Lilith, Tara, Athena and many more – these are names that conjure up humanity's enduring need to engage with the female force as it exists in both the natural and spiritual world. They are captivating figures and this is an enthralling exhibition. It should whet every viewer's curiosity to learn even more about this important aspect of the human cultural and spiritual tradition.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Queen of the night relief, c. 1750 BCE, Iraq, painted clay © The Trustees of the British Museum

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