House of Sweden’s New Exhibits Reclaim History
April 5, 2022 @ 4:00pm
The House of Sweden recently opened two new exhibits, which while different in context and expression, poignantly put front and center groups marginalized in history.
Upon entering the embassy, patrons will see the first exhibit, “Her Rights,” marked by large pink bordered silhouette cutouts. Opening this past March in honor of Women’s History Month, the exhibit focuses on gender equality and the advancement of women in labor markets.
The yearlong curated exhibit weaves historical examples, such as cosmetics from Madam C.J. Walker at the turn of the 20th century to more recent women-created products like edible zero waste straws. Obviously, many Swedish products are featured but balanced with the overall global narrative of the shared progress in women’s rights in the workforce.
Each section flows together and incorporates interactive elements, including a usable hopscotch timeline of women’s activism and tablets with videos of the showcased products’ inventors.
“[Swedish people] are very involved in women’s rights – and men’s rights,” Swedish Institute Program Manage Ulrika Rosvall explains about the exhibit’s ethos. “We see it as the same thing. Women live in stereotypical roles, but men also do.”
Despite covering a wide swath of different subsets of women’s rights on a global scale, the exhibit’s well thought out and paints a clear picture of women’s role advancements in the workforce without overwhelming visitors .
Art by the Sámi People
Open until July 17, “Arctic Highways: Unbounded Indigenous People” highlights 12 indigenous artists’ works from the Northern Hemisphere. The featured art expresses different facets of indigenous history and life, including the ramifications of colonialism, identity and modern activism in their community. Although artists from the exhibit live throughout the arctic regions of the world, like the U.S., Canada and Finland, they identify as one group.
“We are indigenous peoples who live in different countries and on different continents, and yet regard ourselves as peoples with kindred spirits,” the exhibit’s mission statement reads. “The borders of nation-states, arbitrarily drawn without regard to the landscapes of our ancestors, have been used to group the Sámi people, and to set us up to fight against our brothers and sisters living on the other side, fencing in and silencing our voices and our knowledge.”
Their collective message as a united people is evident even through the different media and forms of the exhibit: from the large scenic photographs of different landscapes to the meticulous needlepoint art of an arctic skyline.
One striking work from artist Sonya Kelliher-Combs displays 35 pieces of painted and embellished fabric uniformly lined up into two rows to represent the number of villages that reported credible claims of sexual abuse from the Catholic Church in Alaska. Next to the work is a long list of all the names of the accused abusers. There is also a 36th piece of fabric unpainted to mark all the others who might not have come forward.
Kelliher-Combs noted she hopes that creating this piece brings awareness and serves as a catharsis for the overall community.
“Friends and fellow sellers come over to work on these pieces together,” Kelliher-Comb says about how she goes about creating her artwork. “I really believe in community. I think that’s the only way you can survive. You have to process it together. It’s hard to do it all by yourself.”
“Arctic Highways” serves as a space for shared indigenous stories while also showcasing the strength, resilience and beauty of the Sámi people.
“Her Rights” is open to the public through March 2023. “Arctic Highways: Unbounded Indigenous People is open through July 12, 2022. To see the available times to view the exhibits, visit here.
House of Sweden: 2900 K St. NW, DC; houseofsweden.com // @swedeninusa
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