Last Saturday at a craftivism workshop in Cardiff I met Sara Huws and something she mentioned got me thinking: Where are all the statues of women in Cardiff?
If you know Cardiff your thoughts will automatically snap to statues like Mother and Son on Queen Street, or maybe Nereid on Kingsway. Statues like these were pointed out by fellow workshop attendees but none of us could name them as people; they are all nameless women representing an aspect of womanhood or some kind of character or concept.
Sara wrote a blog post on this in 2011:
“I’d rather be proven wrong about this, but it really does look like every female body represented in public sculpture around Cardiff is symbolic (every! single! one!). They fall into the following general categories: angel, goddess, virtue, caryatid, figurehead, mother and wife. Possibly mermaid.”
In her post titled A Modest Proposal: A Statue of an Actual Woman for Cardiff, she explains her quest for, “a public sculpture in Cardiff of an actual female person, living or dead, whose name I could Google.” She wrote:
“In a frankly super-retro twist on an ole’ Victorian classic; women’s bodies and what they represent are abundant in Cardiff, but not their stories, identities and voices. The ‘seen and not heard’ female slips unnoticed into the civic background of the city.”
I was pretty surprised that the capital city of Wales, a place full of strong women and a city that often celebrates its diverse past and present would have been able to find many women to dedicate statues to.
It could be argued that nobody deserves a statue, that behind every great politician, scientist artist of sportsperson there is a number of great people contributing just as much, if not more, to their community and the world. But it’s a shame that the public face of Cardiff while finding it within itself to dedicate statues to men like Aeurin Bevan, Jim Driscoll and Ivor Novello, all just as deserving as Cardiff and Wales’s well known women who have not been given the same kind of celebration. After all, if they are not celebrated and given the same public respect as men what hope is there for the rest of us?
The original post was a while ago now, July 2011, but Sara is still interested in Cardiff’s missing woman statues. She has said she’ll be researching women’s stories and posting about them as she goes as well as conducting a poll.
So here’s my suggestions (and yes, I think nominations can be dead or alive, and I admit I don’t have a great knowledge of history):
Shirley Bassey – Sara’s prediction of the poll winner
Tanni Grey-Thompson – Possibly one of Wales’ most well known sportswomen
Gillian Clarke – poet, playwright and many other things, also figures in many G.C.S.E and A Level English anthologies and course work
Who would you like to see a Cardiff statue for?
Read Sara’s full post on her blog Boglyn, here.
Thanks to David Reeves for the photo.