Thistles and Dandelions – “At Home”, a Digital Exhibition

Thistles and Dandelions is a yearlong Heritage Lottery Funded programme by Empower Women for Change. It aims to explore the history of Glasgow’s women over the last 50–100 years, sharing previously hidden or misinterpreted stories, particularly in relation to ethnic minority communities.

The team of Empower Women for Change have recruited 23 volunteers to be part of the project. They are women from countries all over the world, including Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, Iraq, Italy, France, Bermuda, Kurdistan, Scotland and England. For the whole duration of the programme, they have met digitally to share experiences, as well as their passion for culture and women empowerment.

This exhibition is the first big milestone of their journey with us. Working with the Learning & Access team at GoMA over a period of two months, the women in the group have learnt about museums and galleries. Together, they explored what it takes to put on an exhibition, who are the professionals involved and what are their skills and career pathways. They have then been introduced to the fundamentals of curating an exhibition, writing accessible information for visitors, and engaging different audiences with museum and gallery displays.

To put this knowledge into practice, the GoMA team have explored with them the exhibition at GoMA “Domestic Bliss” and worked together on a response to it, which took the form of the exhibition below.

Volunteers were asked to choose an object that reflected on one or some of the themes common to both Domestic Bliss exhibition and the Thistles & Dandelions project. The objects in this digital exhibition, therefore, aim to highlight women’s history and their contribution to their household and communities; to tell stories about domestic labour and feminism, public and private space,  and intimate relationships. But, most of all, they hold a deep personal meaning to the volunteers.

Guided by GoMA staff members, participants selected their object, then wrote the texts and took the photographs that you see in this exhibitions. We hope that you enjoy this digital exhibition as much as the staff at GoMA and project participants enjoyed working on it.

“This project has been incredibly rewarding for the women. Despite the challenging times due to Covid-19 they have all been actively involved in the project and are extremely proud to present the exhibition publicly!”

Mirella, volunteer coordinator, Empower Women for Change

Reminders of “home”

In the digital workshops with the GoMA team, we have explored the meaning of “home” to us. Home can be a place, an object, a memory. It can also be more places at the same time; it can be where you are now or where you used to be. These objects represent a variety of personal feelings that we associate with “home”.

Luna

Teapot

Baghdad, stainless steel

When I use this teapot, it reminds me of my family and life in Baghdad – the streets, markets and the fact that Iraqis continue to drink hot tea in 50 degree heat.

Iram

Meri Billie (My cat)

Toy cat, white and grey rubber, 1970s

This cat is one of my first toys. It was bought in Saddar market, Karachi. It was kept in my mother’s cupboard when we were abroad and I looked forward to it during my summer visits to Pakistan. I brought my cat to Glasgow in 2017.

Alberta

La macchinetta (The little machine)

Moka pot, stainless steel

“La macchinetta” is always on in my memories. Over a thousand chats with family and friends, Moka is spreading its unique smell, making that peculiar sound that tells you “now it’s the time to take a breath”.

Cynthia

Housewarming gift

August 2020, digital illustration, © Alice LE GOFF @aeliscreation

Alice Le Goff, French illustrator, gifted this Glaswegian red sandstone tenement building illustration which represents the post-lockdown new home. It symbolises roots and home in a digital world.

Celebrations

For some of us, talking about the exhibition “Domestic Bliss” made us think of particular celebrations and traditions. The objects below highlight some of these events and their importance in our lives.

Gihad

Henna

Homemade henna kit and patterns

Henna is a dye prepared from a plant. Henna has been used since antiquity to dye skin, hair and fingernails. It is a tradition in many countries at happy occasions.

Lawon

Ileke (traditional beads)

Glass

I was given the red beads as a gift from my mum for a cultural dance, the other beads for my traditional wedding. They are one of the most cherished gifts a woman could receive from their parents.

Lara

Aso Oke (traditional wear of the Yoruba Tribe, Nigeria)

hand-woven cloth

My late mum gave me this aso oke to tie my newborn baby. When my daughter was young, she used this to tie her teddy bear to her.

Alessia

Nigerian fabric

Printed cotton

This fabric was to be used to create a wedding dress to celebrate a multicultural marriage. The bride-to-be received it from the Nigerian groom’s family.

Heirlooms and family presents

Another important category we often encountered when talking about women and home were heirlooms and presents. The objects below have all been passed from one generation of women to the next.

Manar

Grandmother’s ring

Gold

My grandmother’s ring, which she got for herself. She passed it to my mum, my  mum  passed it to me and I will pass it on to my daughter

Fizza

Tea set

Ceramic

This tea set is a gift from my mum. Whenever I drink tea in it, it tastes different and brings all the lovely and beautiful memories I have with my mum.

Lana

Lentil soup

Soup, ceramic plate and photograph

Lentil soup, prepared according to my grandmother’s recipe.

Jennifer

Brownie Camera

Kodak Six 20 Folding Brownie camera, Britain, manufactured in the 1930s-40s. 

This camera symbolises the sentimentality of an article passed down through generations and the stories they embody. It once belonged to my grandmother and, to me, it holds its own unique insight into her life.

Rebecca

Sketch work

Sketch of Rebecca and Aimee, her daughter, by Aimee John

This sketch was presented to Rebecca by her 12 years old daughter Aimee John on Mother’s Day, 23 March 2017. It was copied from one of the pictures. This marvellous work of her 12-year-old girl was highly appreciated and framed by the mother.

Esther

Hand towel with tree and birds 

Linen, dated around 1930

The 1930s in Britain saw changes in the way women embroidered. New technology allowed home sewers to move away from set patterns to more artistic designs. This example is in the art deco style.

Cat

Stone Victorian Hot Water Bottle

glazed Ceramic

It was called a “stone” because heated bricks were a common way of keeping feet and hands warm in beds during the Victorian era. It is glazed in cream with a handle at one end and a screw top where the water was added.

Hina

Holy book

Beautiful hand made Holy book cover made by my grandmother in 1985

Millie

Gold necklace with ragdoll pendant

Gold

This necklace reminds me of my mum’s resilience after my dad passed away. The pendant belonged to my aunt, who was larger than life.

Joseyann

Sewing machine

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I used this machine to make reusable face masks for my loved ones. It was given to me by my aunt, who travelled round the world with it.

Yve

Decorative Paperweight

magaret Barry, About 1940-1960

A striking paperweight that my late Grandmother used as an eclectic feature, just like herself, or for her private letters that now remind me of her whilst I’m scribbling away.

Kirsty

Crochet Blanket

Betty Reid, 160 x 160cm

Glaswegian granny Betty Reid would often crochet whilst watching TV, using only her hands to guide the needle. She gave this blanket to her granddaughter to “keep her nice and wairm”

Anemay

5ps gathered in my house

My mum was told, by a medium, that 5ps mean her late sister is around. For her mediumship holds a tangible link with ancestors. Does it matter if it’s “real”?

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