Partners: KozaVisual, NOVA Feminist Cultural Center in Montenegro
Supported by Anna Lindh Foundation
“Penelopolis: Women’s Mapping of Mediterranean Town’s Culture / Podgorica 2013”. The project is carried out by NGO NOVA – Feminist Culture Center, Podgorica – Montenegro and Koza Visual Culture and Arts Association, Istanbul – Turkey. Project is supported by Anna Lindh Foundation.
Artists participated in the project are: Işıl Eğrikavuk, Merve Şendil, Sümer Sayın, Ivanka Vana Prelević, Nada Kažić, Gordana Kuč.
Curators, art historians: Hatice Utkan, Nataša Nikčević.
Penelopolis aims to point out the significance that women’s cultural identities have been forming the Mediterranean towns’ cultural identities. Penelopolis aims to point out the significance that women’s cultural identities (but all other marginalized and minority ones as well) have in forming the Mediterranean towns’ cultural identities. It is based on the idea that women’s cultural and artistic praxis have special ability for deconstructing patriarchal stereotypes on “unfriendly otherness” and affirming cultural diversity. The project promotes women’s intercultural skills and those diversities of women’s cultural expression revealing its special capacity of intercultural dialogue. Main goal of the project is the recognition and promotion of cultural diversity as the essence of cultural and political prosperity of Mediterranean towns and peaceful coexistence of people living therein.
By their artistic interventions, women artists selected by the partner organizations from Mediterranean countries should map marginalized women’s cultural identities, and make them visible. In this way, women artist will create new town’s cultural map which – unlike official town’s cultural maps marking only the places of majority cultural identities – recognizes and accepts these identities’ significance, their influence on this town’s contemporary identity and the importance of marginalized women’s cultural heritage in that context. Project is planned to be women’s cultural re-mapping of the town by artistic interventions – objects/spatial installations.
In April 2013, first exhibition took place in Podgorica, at the riverside of Ribnica, the part of its banks where this small river flows into river Moraca. Six women artists from Montenegro and Turkey in Podgorica made installations in the park.
Joint presentation of the installations, in April took place at the riverside of Ribnica, i.e. the part of its banks where this small river flows into river Moraca. The reason to opt for this location was the special importance of river Ribnica in cultural memory of Podgorica, and in creating this city’s cultural identity.
In its past, geographically and culturally Podgorica relied on Ribnica river to much greater extent than it is today a case. The oldest settlements in this area, founded as far back as in Roman era, were formed around river Ribnica. Early in Middle Ages, there was a Ribnica settlement here, with its walls of fortress still visible at the river’s bank. Although this settlement became known as Podgorica in 14th century, during the following centuries it has still been “a town on Ribnica”. This also relates to a long period when Podgorica was under the Turkish authority (1474 – 1878). In that period, the city came into contact with strong influence of the Islam, today still visible in the culture of contemporary Podgorica.
Ribnica river represents the very core of the old Podgorica’s identity. As a motif, as “the town’s heart”, this river appears in oral tradition, in numerous anecdotes, and particularly in old-Podgorica songs that have distinctive sensibility created under oriental influence.
At this location (as at any place in Podgorica), there are no material traces of women’s culture. In this town’s patriarchal past, women had no chance to express themselves artistically under “high culture”, which was mostly available to men. Therefore, there are no the traces of women’s culture preserved; there are no places recognized, i.e. mapped, as the places of women’s cultural heritage. Basically, the women’s cultural praxis in Podgorica’s past were similar to those ones of all women in the patriarchy: they were invisible, i.e. associated with the privacy, family welfare, home-appearance, personal care and attractive look, with family and social gatherings. As such, it remained to be unrecognized for this women’s cultural heritage could have any cultural significance. By carrying out the project “Penelopolis” we want to reconstruct those old women’s cultural praxis, to give them importance and to make the existence of women’s cultural heritage in this area public. Since this location we mostly associate with life of women in the past of Podgorica, and with women’s identity, we decided on Ribnica riverside to be location where we will map that heritage existence and which we will write in this town’s cultural map. Whole life of old Podgorica was gravitating towards river Ribnica. We know for women were gladly coming here to talk; to launder; to take water; they got here with their husbands and fathers to mill corns (once, there was some ten water-mills here); this was the place where girls used to meet boy-friends they were in love with. Here, at Ribnica’s riverside, as nowhere else, we can hear the echo of women’s voices, feel their presence… Water of river Ribnica is permanently connected to women’s life, and women’s identity, by the most popular song of old Podgorica: “Milica, the mother’s only”. Song is about Milica, young girl who, while going very early to bring water, “lifted skirt a little and made a step in water of Ribnica”…