Inaugural “This is Essential Work” exhibition launched

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Painting from the exhibit

Picture by Aline Brune, one of the profiled artists from the exhibition.

The “This is Essential Work” project is an online open-access intersectional feminist exhibition initiated by academic mothers and creators, Michal Nahman (UWE Bristol) and Susan Newman (Open University) in response to their experiences and interdisciplinary research on the commodification of breastmilk and forms of exploitation of women’s bodies and labour. The project received over 700 submissions and the online exhibition was recently launched

The exhibition saw work submitted from several countries including the UK, Brazil, Germany, the USA, China, Nigeria, India and more.

The exhibition emerged from research funded by a UWE Vice Chancellor’s Award for Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research conducted just before the Covid-19 pandemic, in Bengaluru, India, into mother’s provision of “excess” breastmilk to a private company that was processing it and selling it at a profit.

The volume of work was both moving and invigorating.

The judging team commented:

“For this exhibition, the art conveys how work and bodies get devalued. This feminist exhibition is about showcasing this gendered work: to acknowledge, to grieve, and importantly, to connect with one another.

We are showcasing mother/artists who question the value that society puts on their work, including all kinds of labour. The list of our Essential Work is endless and it holds up the world.”

View the online exhibition.

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